The Beast, Pt. 70 (Chapter 18a)

We take a bottle of some technicolor liquor with us and leave the lounge. I’m a little surprised that the bouncer doesn’t try and stop us, try and tell us that we can’t take drinks outside the premises with us. Maybe the laws of the Meadows allow it. Maybe the same company owns the lounge owns the car service owns the Libretto, so we’re never really entering a public space. Maybe this is just a perk of throwing around your money; nobody is going to try and stop you.

Things are already escalating. The laughter is louder, comes quicker. The jokes make less sense but are somehow funnier. The two groups of women are getting along excellently. Perhaps it’s a matter of genetics, selected for and amplified. And we men, silly and obvious and predictable, are stumbling over ourselves to impress them, to amuse them, to endear ourselves to them. We tell the stories that make us sound funny. We tell the stories that make us sound worldy and interesting. We tell the stories that make us sound humble and down to earth despite all the other ones. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. It must be because the women are outside with us, they’re in the limousine with us (wait, how did we all fit inside? There are eleven of us now. Did the AI bring around a bigger limo?), they’re egging us on as we talk about all the plans we had if we ever stumbled backwards into a pile of money.

“If you have a villa, you have to throw a giant party. The space is too big to waste on just us.”

“Ooh, I’ll invite my friends! Can I invite my friends? You’re going to love them, I promise.”

“Wait, what about all those names and numbers we got the other night? We did get a pile of names and numbers, right? Call them. Call them immediately.”

“Hey, we’ve got to get the Libretto to cater this thing! Get some food and drinks up in the villa!”

Googe and Papa Chub take out their Conncomms, begin texting and dialing and subvocating. I toss my own at Monk, tell him to figure out the situation with room service. As soon as they begin busying themselves, my attention slides elsewhere. The redhead is leaning forward, her elbows on her knees laughing, her dress displaying her decolletage for all the world to see, but really, just me. In this moment, I’m king of the world. I have fallen down and worshipped, and all these things were given to me.

The bottle is in my left hand. I take a pull from it, idly wonder how it got there, how many hundreds of credits I just wasted without even savoring the flavor. Either the nanites and the cocktails of drugs have worn off, or if I’ve just taxed them past their limits. The former, maybe, since my friends seem to be in much the same state as me even though they haven’t been going as hard.

The limo pulls up at the private entry to the Libretto and we pour out like a riot. The night is building towards some unknowable purpose. We have shed ten years each, become stupid boys on the verge of stumbling blindly into adulthood once more. We will push this thing as far as we can go, our faith keeping us aloft, our blind faith that our actions will have no meaningful consequences and that we can live forever if we only want it badly enough.

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