Thrumming electronic music and hot ruby light subsumed Danzig Kleiner. The club’s sonic effluvia shook his haggard frame and rendered his voice near-inaudible, even to himself. He touched the drying re-gel on his face, winced, and ambled awkwardly past the shifting multi-colored dancefloor, where the establishment patrons whirled and twerked with manic ecstasy; wild and grotesque gyrations of taunt, sweat-stained abs and ample, ill-contained breasts. The floor was synchronized to the affin modules of every inhabitant such that the coloration would blend and change in accordance with the mood of the room; the more positive the collective associations, the brighter the hues, the more negative, the darker. A novel conceit intended by the designers to bolster empathy in the hall’s participants.
Despite the distinctiveness of the clientele, one dancer stood out to Danzig, a thin, merry man with a chartreuse coat, a left bandaged hand, an eggshell sweater, off-white slacks and matted hair, short on the sides and back and long in the front. He twirled with a youthful, vivacious, scant-garbed blonde, all curves and smiles and lascivious yearning. Her pale, pliant flesh yielding to his searching, rhythmic manipulations. As Danzig beheld the handsome couple with envy and enchantment, a tall, bulky, tattooed man swaggered drunkenly across the floor and began dancing before them.
With his view obstructed, Danzig passed to a table at the back of the establishment where a bored woman watched him with faint annoyance.
“What happened to your face?” The woman quickly scanned the spacious insulated hall, brows knitting, “Where’s Culp and Mehan?”
“That’s what I needed to talk to you about.”
“I’m listening,” the woman replied with impatience, sliding a drink across the table to the man as he set himself down upon one of the armless cushion chairs there arrayed with a grunt of pain and exhaustion.
“Some guy. Came out of nowhere. Don’t know who.”
“We were just teaching a lesson to one of the uptowners. Some bitch. Then this guy shows up, has a problem with it… well, I tell Mehan and Culp to get after him and he-“
“What did he look like?”
Kleiner felt his face again, sucked air through his teeth and took a drink before answering, “He was around my size. Little taller. Wore a mask. Had this… weird armor.”
The woman’s features contorted with apprehension.
“The armor, what did it look like?”
“I dunno. Like armor. I’m not a manufacturing expert. Was tough, whatever it was made of. But I got the bastard. Stuck him good. Thanks to your little gift.”
At this admission the woman’s mood darkened even further.
“Colors, materials, anything?”
“It was plated. White-ish. Silvery. Like silver and gold mixed together. Why? You know this guy?”
“That’s KSRU gear, Kleiner.”
The man spread his hands in confusion. The woman glared.
“Kryos Industries’ Special Reconnaissance Unit. Deep colony private military. Security for topside Kryos properties.”
“All you’ve got to say is ‘Oh?'”
The man said nothing, perplexed by the woman’s outrage.
“You said you stabbed him.”
The man cracked a prideful grin.
“Nah. Armor, remember.”
“And he saw your face?”
“They’ll be looking for you now.”
Kleiner pushed his drink away and snatched up one of the printed biscuits from a crafter on the table.
“I don’t care. I want him. That’s why I came straight to you.”
The woman was half-listening, now scanning the room nervously. Shortly, she downed her drink and shook her head.
“I’m not getting involved in whatever you’re thinking of doing.”
The man lowered his voice and spoke emphatically, leaning over the table, his posture both pleading and threatening.
“I need weapons, Sia.”
The woman got up and shook her head again.
“You take care.”
Heedless of his words, the arms dealer melded into a crowd exiting the polychromatic parquet. Kleiner cursed and watched the throng depart the establishment, catching the scent of smoke and the wail of a Consortium klaxon in the far-distance. His attention drifted back to the provocative couple; still dancing, now more exuberantly than before. The man with the chartreuse coat pulled the voluptuous blonde close and whispered something in her ear, she smiled and began to laugh manically. The man then parted from her and bounded, madcap, to the large branded man and slammed into him, swiftly retreating into the ebbing flow of bodies with a sly, lopsided smile. The inked man fell into another dancer, who turned with a snarl and yelled inaudible words across the churning, meretricious sprawl, then striking out at the jaw of the man who’d been shoved into him, who, patched-out of his mind, viciously retaliated. The two men careened into a pack of wild youths, who turned upon them. Swiftly, the hall erupted in screams and violence. The color of the floor, graduating from radiant ruby to blood-moon beryl. All the while the chartreuse man and his concupiscent companion frolicked, smiling like sphinxes well-sated on the blood of the riddleless.
Kleiner rose as two of the dancehall combatants, shaggy men, scrawny of frame, came wheeling toward him and went crashing into his table with howls of blind, drug-induced rage. He whirled round and dodged a fist from a young woman, pushing her aside he moved away from the nexus of the melee and scryed the room, looking for the couple, finding them to have moved to the very back of the dancefloor. With his hands about the woman, the man with the chartreuse coat looked up, catching the bystander’s gaze.
Kleiner’s visage assumed the proportions of bafflement.
Beneath the man with the chartreuse coat, there was no color at all.