I found her wandering the Ginsu Corporate Japanese garden. I’d been called to the scene to address a public nuisance. Such is the way of our culture now that even this woman, goddess though she was, could not escape our surveillance drones nor there automatic report. Though she was non-violent, I knew from the report I received en-route, that I’d have to take her in. What I found when I arrived though…
The Ginsu Corp’s Japanese garden is an enormous courtyard in the center of a sky-scraper made of all modern, sleek angles, stainless steel trim, and large, open windows. That last bit seems the most important for what I found, but it was hardly on my mind when I entered from the lobby-side. The door there was designed to open and close like a sliding door, but was hidden in the windows to appear as one. Something about architects and their styles– or some such nonsense– made it necessary to hide the door.
There was a persistent, purposeful gurgle of water in the garden. A make-shift river was cut through its center with clever, hidden plumbing and a slow-trickling waterfall to the left side. The water would slip down those rocks endlessly, follow the twists and turns of its man-made banks, flow beneath a foot bridge in the middle, then exit somewhere far to the right to start the process again.
The few, Japanese Maples Ginsu had imported were delicately placed around the garden’s stone pathways and small clearings so as not to overshadow the countless foreign hedges, flowers, and ancient, potted bonsai-plants. Over the sky-scraper and through the foliage, the sun’s rays cut streaks through a mist that persisted over the area. It gave the garden an almost ethereal look.
It was surreal. There I stood in heavy, corp-sec armor with an LR-30 five-five-six in my hands, in a veritable garden of Eden. It was even more surreal when I made my silent progress to the footbridge, then clomped over it in my weighted gait into the Garden’s heart. Somewhere behind me a Koi jumped at one of the various water-dwelling insects. It landed with a splash that I missed but caught the ripples of. Even at the distance I could see the Koi in the river; they were massive, all manner of mixtures of orange, black, white. Some were wholly patterned, the rest mostly solid colors with speckles of others splattered across them. There must have been a few hundred that swirled through the water, added life to the already-teeming garden.
I found her a few paces from a split in the hedges. To say I was breath-taken would be an understatement. She sat in the dewy grass in one of those shining sun-rays that gleamed down from the heavens. The metaphor was all the more apt then. Her knees were drawn up, legs curled beneath her while she leaned on an arm. She glowed with an aura of the sunlight– or maybe it was her angelic features– while a hand pensively hung at the back of her neck. She stared upward in trance, as oblivious to me as I was of what was to come.
I don’t know how long I stood there, but it was enough to eventually rouse her curiosity. I should have said something, anything, but I knew I couldn’t. To add anything to the sounds of that low gurgle, distant, quiet birds, and the faint scent of fresh mist would have been blasphemous. Instead, I watched her. As if of her own volition and nothing else, she rose from the ground and angled toward me.
She was clad in little more than a transparent dress. It wasn’t a thing from any of the corp-owned stores in town. They’d have never allowed it. Even so, she wore it like a goddess, could have fit in with any of the old myths about ancient women whose beauty brought men and women their knees.
She tilted her platinum blonde head– which curiously seemed natural despite its impossibility– and drew a slow hand upward. My eyes caught the motion to see her pale skin beneath the dress, her body bared for the world, for me. The glow behind her gave an outline of something voluptuous to her already-transcendent beauty. It was difficult not to stare. Even so, something in the way her hand curled beneath the hard angles of her jaw made it seem as though she wished me to, took pleasure in it.
Imagine me, all corp-sec clad and rifle-toting ready to rain hell-fire on rebels and revolutionaries, being met with a match so fully inverse of myself– in appearance or otherwise. Surreal didn’t quite cut it anymore, if only because of the ethereal, extra-worldly magnificence before me. I was the beast in the metaphor, a perfectly sculpted image of terror, torture, and pain, and somehow I’d found beauty that brought me to my knees. Literally.
My rifle dropped from my hands first, the safety thankfully on. She was within arm’s reach, could see all the subtle curves of her supple breasts, perfectly-rounded hips, and the glistening green of her eyes. The left side of her head was shaved. The rest short but with bangs that angled around her forehead. The seemed to weight it into a tilt to one side, then drifted in the light breeze that made it over the gargantuan walls of the around us.
I met her eyes with a breathless, parted mouth. I was only vaguely aware of the people gathered around the garden and surveillance cameras. Most would be watching out of curiosity, others out of arousal. So repressed has our society become that this woman was committing a crime simply by existing. By then, I had forgotten my job there. She could have murdered me, if it meant only a touch from her unearthly wonder.
Our eyes were still locked when I fell to my knees. Her mouth formed a sadness then that still stabs my heart when I remember it. With a pair of nimble, silken fingers, she lifted me upward by the broad-underside of my chin. Her touch sent a shiver through my spine. I was ready to faint, so powerful was she.
Why what came next happened, I don’t know. Maybe she knew what was to come from it. Maybe, like I with her, she’d been captivated by something in me that I didn’t know existed. Or maybe she was as enthralled as I by the unseen, primal forces of lust and love that have allowed our species to propagate. Whatever it was, she gave a small shake of her head as I rose to full-height from the light pressure beneath my chin. Then, slowly, both of her soft hands rose to either side of my face. She pulled me into a long, deep kiss that nearly made me buckle again.
Her breath was hot, inviting, her tongue soft and trained like a dancer. Between us a slow, almost mournful ballet began. I’m not sure how long it lasted, but I never wanted it to end. My hands were warmed through my gloves at her hips while the breeze tousled the creased, see-through dress around them as its anchors.
I know she sensed what was to come. I felt it in a burst of passion that surged between us. If I had known though, I might have done something more. But all I knew was her; a glowing, pulsing beacon of beauty, love, and good in a world literally gone to hell. Outside that garden, there were a dozen different corps all vying to carve out the largest part of the world they could. Anyone that got in their way was labeled a traitor, dissenter, terrorist.
My job was to rid the world of those people, the undesirables. All I ever did was drive wedges between people and their families, murder the righteous, and taunt the rest into choosing sides in a war for the most basic of freedoms. I will never know her name, but I’m sure that she was all of those things and somehow… I couldn’t have done more than I did in that moment.
There was a sound like a someone shouting in the distance, but I didn’t hear it. Then a hiccup in the low gurgle. I was a million miles away, riding a beam of sunlight with a queen of stars. Her passion never faltered; not from the moment our lips met. It merely stopped as she slipped down my body, clutching at my armor. I was hit by reality like a freight-train ramming an unseen motorist off the tracks. Another apt metaphor that was just as bloody as my armor as she slipped away from me.
Before I knew it, she and I were surrounded by one of the Corp’s Emergency Response Squads. The ERS are guys sent in to “contain,” a “situation.” In other words, I didn’t do the job fast enough or well enough, and some assholes kicked down the door. They murdered an angel. I know no-one believes in that stuff anymore. Neither do I, really, but then again I never believed in love, or love at first sight either. I do believe in those last two now.
She bled to death in my arms. Her glowing gown was stained red from the exit wound in her chest. I was safe from my armor and its built-in kinetic compensators. I wish I hadn’t been. I’d have rather died there with her.
I held her, breathless tears welling in my bestial eyes. She never stopped smiling. Not even after the life left her eyes and her last breath eased from her chest and tore out my heart. I was arrested for indecent public conduct and displaying affection while on-duty. The latter was a reprimand, the former a felony.
I took my forty licks– corporate lashings that we all agreed to allow when we signed on with corp-sec. Why wouldn’t I? I was cold, numb, without feeling. I had become the very thing the corps always wanted out of us. It wasn’t until I realized that that I finally understood why she’d smiled even with a bullet through her heart and her life fading: she’d made a statement with her life, her death, and the moments leading to it. I was the punch-line to a joke about trying to remove the humanity from a human.
Even now I don’t mind. Every day I wake up in my dingy hovel, help more people to escape the prison-compounds the Corps have turned most cities into. I use my power, my authority, despite my Spartan living and appearance, to do the one thing I know she would approve of. I help people find feeling again, just as she did for me. Even if she didn’t love me, I loved her, and I’ll go to my grave doing everything to honor that. It took the murder of an angel to awaken me, but I’ll be damned if it was in vain.