I was stuck in the house for a good few days because Zed refused to unhack my freaking car as long as I didn’t have an escort. The whole situation was driving me crazy. I wanted back that little freedom I used to have. I even tried to reason with Dad, but there was no reasoning with him. Not when his money was on the line, and I was worth more than the house.
But I had to get out. There was stuff I needed, stuff I couldn’t ask someone else to get for me. I needed my car back.
And because of that, I had to go look for that annoying roomba.
“Zed,” I called out when I spotted him on the second-floor hallway, heading towards the guest area. “I have some shopping to do, and I need my car.”
Zed turned to face me. “I understand. Who will escort you today?”
I swallowed my pride. “How about Dan?”
“Denied.” Zed immediately replied. “He is no longer an option ever since you performed fellatio on him and recorded it. You are not allowed to be alone with a guard who is sexually attracted to you.”
“I... I... What?” I stammered, but quickly gathered my composure. “How did you know?” I asked in a demanding voice.
“I have access to all the security files,” Zed replied. “I scanned and memorized every incident of the last five years on my first day here. Pick another guard.”
I could only stare at him for a brief moment. I was ready to start throwing hands because he’d told me no, and because I really needed the escort to be Dan. But I put a lid on my temper, and forced a smile. “I see. How about Carl, then?”
Carl was almost just as good as Dan. A bit trickier to seduce.
Zed blinked. His eyes flashed blue for a second.
“Tobias Locke. You had sexual intercourse with Carl outside near the pool. Denied. Pick another guard.”
“Damn it,” I muttered under my breath. “I... wasn’t sure if they ever found out about it, but I guess they did,” I said with a smirk. “Fine, how about... Alysa?”
“... Granted. Alysa can be your escort,” Zed said after a brief silence. “I will unlock your car controls as soon as Alysa confirms she is in the car with you.”
“Thank you,” I smiled, turned around, and started making my way back to my room, but then stopped and turned around. “Could you find her for me and ask to wait for me in my car?”
“As you wish,” Zed said, turning on his heels and walking away.
I returned to my room to get my bag and then headed to my car. Once I was in the garage, I spotted the nasty woman waiting by my car, looking annoyed as hell.
“Trust me,” I said when I stopped next to her, “I hate this as much as you do.”
“I doubt it,” she sneered, “Mr. Locke,” she added in a thinly veiled attempt at politeness.
“It’s so wonderful to have you accompany me today,” I smiled at her as I sat down behind the wheel.
She didn’t reply to me this time. She only glared at me as she took out her phone to call Zed.
“I’m in the car, scrapmetal. Unlock the controls.”
It was obvious she hated Zed probably more than I did. I’d seen how they all treated the android, and it was not family friendly. I turned my attention to the car, hating the woman even more for some reason. I started the engine and after making sure everything worked as intended, I started driving.
I really needed Alysa out of my way. She was a naga, so there had to be a way to make her cooperate with me, no matter how much I hated doing her any favors.
“What does it take for you to just take a hike and leave me alone after we reach the city?” I asked – I couldn’t fake any politeness.
Alysa smirked. “So that’s why I’m here. I like those cigars Mr. Locke smokes.”
I almost sighed in relief, but held it back. Alysa was never easy to bribe, so this worked out well for me.
“Well aren’t we both in luck. I happen to know just where to get them,” I told her.
“Then it’s a deal. Drop me off at the gas station and pick me up on the way back.” Alysa held out her hand. “I also need money to order food there.”
“Fine, fine...” I sighed as I searched for my wallet. I shoved fifty bucks in her hands, and later pulled at the gas station she mentioned, promising to get her cigars before coming back for her.
Once she was out of the way, I grabbed my phone. I stayed parked at the gas station while I called a guy who could get me what I wanted, and after he answered and told me where to find him, I continued driving towards the city.
As I saw the gas station grow smaller in my rearview mirror, the realization finally kicked in: I was free. Free for the first time in days! There would be no annoying roombas buzzing around. My dad wasn’t here, my friends weren’t here. I was free to go wherever I pleased. After finding the cigars to keep Alysa quiet, of course.
Just to enjoy my freedom, I drove around for a bit before heading towards the slums. The rich part of the city had beautiful, expensive buildings and vibrant parks and posh residents, but the closer to the slums I drove, the worse it all got. And then I reached the tall brick wall that divided the two areas.
The wall had been built to hide an ugly railway system from the posh people, and over time, it had become the wall that separated the rich from the poor. There was one gap in the wall, making space for a road running under the railway.
I parked the car in a safe place, and grabbed a hoodie from the back. I put it on and pulled the hood over my face to hide my identity. Anyone entering the slums didn’t want to be associated with the Lockes, not to mention be a Locke. It was raining lightly, so no one would bat an eye.
I stopped to stare at the tall wall. It was full of graffiti. When I walked closer in silence, I read some of the messages left behind. One of them caught my eye.
Death to the naga!
I stopped in front of it, feeling empty. How many times had I wished naga blood didn’t run through my veins? My life would be so much easier. No one liked the nagas, not even those who were willing to work with them. Nagas were cunning, smart, and hungry for power, and they stopped at nothing to get what they wanted.
That same blood was in me, but at least I had the mermaid side keeping me from becoming the same as my father. And that side of me was sad when I walked past the wall and saw the destruction the years of neglect had caused right in front of me.
I peered around as I made my way slowly through the streets, avoiding the rubble and decaying trash on the streets. This part of the sanctuary was literally falling apart. There were so many collapsed buildings, so much misery, despair, and death... There were no trees, no beautiful things, nothing.
And my father had played a big part in all this destruction.
Soon, I arrived at the place where I was supposed to meet my dealer. I stepped into a narrow, dirty alleyway between a bar and an abandoned grocery store, and made my way to a door at the end of it. I peered over my shoulder before knocking on the rotting door.
A familiar troll, a tall man with a dirty face, opened it and stared down at me.
“You alone?” he asked after recognizing me.
“Of course,” I said, pulling a roll of cash out of my pocket. “You got what I need?”
There wasn’t much I could do for these people, but at least I was able to support their businesses. No matter how shady they were.
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