Chapter 5:


Welcome to Hell

I was already back in Semaimachi's loud and busy main street, meandering and looking for things to buy. It was hard to believe so much had happened in a day.

An hour ago, the gang took the Jet Streamer to a gal they're buddy-buddy with, to get it repaired and back in good condition. Also to make it "ours". We still haven't decided if we would sell off the vehicle or use it for another job.

I wasn't a fan of using the thing, though. What could possibly be gained by going under lava? If I remember correctly, Mr. Charles mentioned that there were even more structures and points of interest under the surface. But of course I had a glimmer of an idea while going back home; Andy told me something that really stuck in my head when I showed the Jet Streamer to him. I just couldn't get it out.

"I don't know which district has it, but rumor is that a big submarine is out there. From what I heard, this submarine is unlike any other, packed with people like it's a real district." Pressing him on the significance of said submarine yielded another bit that echoed in my head, too. "It's got gold, the most valuable commodity in Hell. It's also a pain in the ass to get in and out, if you could even find it under our district's lava."

These two thoughts occupied my head and made me consider going down there just to sate my curiosity if nothing else. These rumors echoed in my mind louder than the marketplace vendors that did everything they could to convince me that their wares were the best things ever and must-buys — that I needed this life changing stuff before another lucky individual bought them. Important stuff like paintings of leaders, rare coins, or overpriced hell bananas that looked like red gooey rods, nothing I'd associate the word "banana" with.

Regardless, I did want to buy some stuff before hitting the hay. I just had no idea what exactly to buy.

Officially joining the realm of the dead not long ago, I hadn't yet grasped the kind of essential things available to me as a Hell denizen. I knew you could buy food, but I didn't exactly feel super hungry. I could subscribe to premium online services like streaming, or attend concerts, or mod my body. I also wasn't sure which of these were within my small budget. Most of all, I had to choose a few things and save for, or let go of others.

The Semaimachi market was mostly either food stalls or stores. There was an electronics store, but I quickly found out that most smartphones cost upwards of 1 million luci, even just for a low end solution that performed worse than your throwaway Samsung Galaxy budget phone. Even then, smartphones as a whole were outclassed by the "omniarm mod" — whatever that was — or even smart glasses.

Surprisingly, there was one used bookstore, and although a little dusty, it sold a lot of stuff. There were several stacks to browse through, some chronicling the history of Hell or the origins of all its races, other stacks focused on repentance and trying to be a better person than in life. All of these were written in various languages, both human and alien. It was funny seeing a section covering chronicles about humans failing to make contact with extraterrestrial intelligent life, sitting right next to English-translated stories about these very same alien lives themselves failing to make contact with other species. The good thing about Hell is that every being that dies all gets absorbed into it as one melting pot of a society. No longer separated by billions of light years of distance, and finally fulfilling our dreams of finding sentient and sapient living beings other than humans.

I was also kind of amused, almost giggling, at the sight of a few copies of various Bible and Qu'ran translations sitting amongst other religious scriptures. They're literally rulebooks of do's and don'ts promising Heaven for worshipping and having faith in God, and adopting his rules and a religious lifestyle. But, if you're not faithful enough then you're threatened with eternal damnation in... uhh. Here?

The books were much cheaper than most other non-food wares I saw, going as low as 10,000 luci. I made it mandatory to pick up a few novels and Hell history books for my entertainment and to add some life into my room.

The deeper I went into the main street, the quieter it became. If there were any stores at this point, they just sold uninteresting stuff like antiques. Eventually the street closed off with a dead end wall, which almost prompted me to turn around and go back home — except for the fact there was one more store on the left side wall. It was simply called Cybermodz. Its sign was unrelenting pink neon straight out of the 80s, and the text in cursive font.

The glass display didn't include products like almost every other store, but pictures and illustrations of various races. All of them had at least one or two metallic parts while the rest of their bodies were skin, fur, goo, and more.

That was about one of the few times I actually stopped to look at the door, and seeing that it was open, I stepped inside. Before I could even feel the breeze of the store's air conditioner, which was unusually cold, a deep, gruffy masculine voice spoke.

"Welcome, human. How may I help you?" The source of the voice initially looked frightening and unfitting to its source, but the realization it spoke English put me at ease. Because otherwise, well, it was a fucking green, oozy caterpillar-like creature. To be more specific, he had a caterpillar-like body with tens if not hundreds of small robotic legs, and at the end of it protruded a spherical head with two eyes and a mouth. He was stuck on a wall coated in a layer of ooze and surrounded by contraptions of iron and steel. He lifted some of the legs closer to his head and attempted to make an awkward wave with them. "Please don't mind my figure. I assume you're new to Hell?"

"Uhhh, yeah. I arrived here not long ago." Despite being confident that he wouldn't harm me, I still felt pretty nervous. "What's with all this stuff?"

"You mean the mods?" He chuckled. "They're my love."

"Heh," a faint smile crept on my face, "I can understand that much."

"Humor aside, I'm Mozgorn, previously from Planet Orgon. I sell all kinds of body mods. Cheap and expensive, useless and useful, and for all moddable races. Since you're new, I'm afraid you can't afford much."

Turning my head around to one of the walls Mozgorn wasn't on, I saw even more of these mods. I couldn't even begin to describe them other than some looked like computer chips made of a material that wasn't silicon, but others were full metal arms with some exposed wires for creatures that I assumed wouldn't even be able to go through the door. "What kind of mods can I buy as a human, anyway?"

"Is it okay if you tell me your name?" He asked with a mild smile.

He was a bit too polite, but I appreciated the gesture. Besides, I didn't know the customs back on his planet. "April. I'm April."

"Okay, Ms. April." He crawled from the wall he was on down to the clerk area, leaving a disgusting trail behind him. Gross! The creature pressed something behind the counter, which caused some panels to slide away in the ceiling. The resulting square openings revealed robotic arms that quickly took the mods on the wall to the left until it was empty, then came back placing other mods on it. This time, they were definitely mods for human beings. "Humans are the most moddable race in Hell. Period. You'll find mods for all sexes, colors and sizes. It's fun to work on the human being's uniform yet somehow diverse body. Few species enjoy that feature."

Walking towards the wall, I took a closer look at the displayed items. "I think you'd rather have all your customers be humans."

"As nice as that would be, that might be boring. I enjoy the challenges of the more complicated species. I had to work on a chimera once." He pressed another button, and a hologram appeared in front of me. It displayed a creature that was basically a fusion of a lion, an eagle, and a... three-headed serpent? For a total of five heads? I couldn't work out how such a being even worked, but its four lion legs were made of iron, with the forelegs even having LCD displays on them. "Had to retrofit parts intended for other species on this bugger."

The only thing I could respond with was, "Jeez."

"Anyways," he turned off the hologram, "I can install simple mods like claws, hooks, scanners, hammers, magnets. More complex items include exoskeletons, body part replacements, omniarms, and even roboticizing your entire body."

Both of my eyebrows went up at the mention of the last item. "Wait, I can become a robot?"

"I don't recommend it, very few humans tolerate a non-organic body. It works by transferring the soul if you're wondering. I'd recommend an omniarm, it's like a smartphone but the screen is in your arm, and you can use it with thoughts alone. Cheapest one I got costs 1,500,000 luci, of great quality."

Sighing, I answer. "Well, that's expensive for me. It will probably be a bit till I get there."

He chuckled again. "I understand the frustration. If you want something very cheap for now, I can install your card under your arm's skin. Believe me, lots of people lose their cards to the lava around here. You can also get a card scanner and open your house's door with your arm, so you won't lose your key either."

I haven't actually thought of what happens if I lose my card or room key, but it didn't take long to ask an important question. "Does this mod cost less than losing the card?"

"Significantly. Issuing a new card deducts 300,000 luci, but this mod costs only 50,000. When you die, you'll even respawn with all your mods, including the card. I can do it on the spot, if you like."

I was well intrigued. "Well, and any drawbacks?"

The middle of his body briefly lifted itself up before going down, as if it was doing the human equivalent of shrugging. "Eh, it would take up potential space for other mods in your arm, except for the omniarm. Otherwise, it's a good starter mod. I'll let you think."

And let me think he did, as he didn't say another word while I mulled over the idea.

On one hand, the idea was sound. My card was my wallet after all. Nothing about it made it hard to steal, so if it was swiped I'd lose my money, and possibly even my identity. Pretty weird system, yet it probably made sense in Hell. Still, the possibility of dying and losing money bothered me.

Oh fuck, not those memories again. Not those god awful stabs. I... I could've just slit my throat instead of doing that! Was stabbing myself like that really—

"Ms. April?!"

"Huh!?" I didn't realize I was actually... clutching my head.

"Ms. April, are you okay?" Mozgorn was above the counter, looking at me with his eyes wide open.

Before answering, I took a few deep breaths. Just, damnit. Did I really have a mental breakdown? Right here?

"Ugh, I'm fine. Sorry about that." I awkwardly put up a smile, trying to feebly downplay whatever just happened. "Fine, let's install that mod."

"Ms. April, you don't have to buy it if you really don't want to." He smiled. "You're always welcome here."

"Well, I really appreciate it, but I'm most definitely buying that mod. Gotta start somewhere." I quickly managed to bring back some, if not all, of my composure. Well, I needed to. I could die here for literally no reason other than being in the wrong place and time, as those civilians learned when the A.S.Ms were chasing us, and I had no fucking idea how I'd even begin to cope with the many deaths of me in the future.

Mozgorn smiled before heading down the counter. "Please stay away from the center." I did exactly as he asked, which was followed by him pressing yet another button. A bigger square opening appeared in the ceiling, this time with an arm slowly descending with a large chair in its grasp. The chair looked like what you would see at a barber's, except with a few iron straps and some lights attached, and extremely heavy just by the looks of it. The arm quietly placed the chair on the ground. "Please sit down."

While I did just that he pressed yet another button. This time the counter split into two sides, each of them retracting to the left and right, as a control panel of sorts emerged out of the new gap. The straps also closed on me, preventing me from moving. There were all sorts of buttons, levers and other controls on it, although they were probably optimized just for his weird body.

"All right, please relax. I can administer full or partial anesthesia. If you're squeamish or don't want to see mods done on your arm, I suggest the full option."

My head tilted in surprise. "Really? Why would one go with partial?"

"You see, some people really like to watch their bodies while they're being modded. I understand the desire. It is an exciting prospect for some people. It is ultimately your choice."

Suddenly, I recalled one anime episode where a character had been partially anesthetized and forced to watch their torturer methodically and sadistically cut their flesh. "I don't want to watch that scene again, thanks."

"That scene?" He looked at me with one of his eyes half open.

Oh, damn. "Ah, um, nevermind. Full, please."

"Okay, one last question. Left or right arm?"


He smiled. "Let's get started." Mozgorn pressed another button on the sprawling control panel, spawning a mechanized hand from the ceiling with a tube which was painlessly attached to my neck. That was the last thing I could remember before the brief operation.


"We're done, Ms. April."

When I came to, I was still lying down on that chair, except no longer tied up. Even in an extremely groggy state, both of my arms looked just about the same, as if nothing ever happened to me. The sleepy feeling wore off quickly, even though it started strongly.

Despite that, I still had difficulties trying to get the words out of my mouth. "What... next?"

"Simply double tap the upper side of your left arm, closer to the elbow."

With my right hand, I double tapped it like I was tapping a touchscreen, and lo and behold, a hologram appeared out of the skin of my arm.

TUE 7:36PM 4/8/2036 - 192,400 LUCI

"Beautiful, isn't it?" He remarked.

On the surface, it looked like a useless mod. But hey, these small things in life kind of mattered for me. I was modded now, which was a weird way of talking about it — like we were cars with replaceable parts — but it was a nice feeling.

While touching my arm in an attempt to feel what was under my skin, I smiled. "I can't wait to try the better stuff." I felt absolutely nothing, and that was kind of weird but I appreciated that it wasn't intrusive.

"Eventually, Ms. April. More is yet to come!" He enthusiastically said. "That would be 40,000 luci."

"Huh?" I was at least able to remember. "Wasn't it 50,000?"

"You're getting a discount. You're cool, just like that."

I actually felt flustered for a moment. "Uhh, I... uhh. I really... appreciate it."

"Don't mention it! Show me your arm." Lifting my arm close to him, he pressed yet another button, and my card's hologram popped up with a yes/no prompt for the transaction. It was an easy yes. New current balance: 152,400 luci. "Anything else I can do for you?"

"Thanks, I'm pretty happy with what I got."

"You're welcome. Come see me again!" He waved at me again with his legs. It was kind of awkwardly cute.

"I will!"

Just as I was about to step back out into Semaimachi, it hit me again. So I turned around. "Say, do you happen to know anything about big submarines in Hell?"

"Submarines, eh?" His shop was in the process of reverting back to what it was like before. "Yes, there are numerous submarines in Hell. There's always one in the lava sea in front of the New Port, but it constantly changes. Everyone says our district's S.S. Noah is the biggest sub out there, wealthier and more populous than entire districts."

The S.S. Noah... I think I heard its name on TV, but didn't know any more about it. "Is getting onto these subs worth it?"

Mozgorn shook his head. "You need a lava traversing vehicle to even get in, and there's nothing you couldn't gain by simply working here. Unless you can somehow get gold from the S.S. Noah, don't bother."

This bit about the gold onboard the Noah caught my attention. I didn't really need to know a lot, just enough to consider using the Jet Streamer. "All right, thank you!"

"Have a good evening!" He said, as I finally turned around and left.

I eventually made it home, and for the rest of the night, there wasn't much else that I had done. I was really tired. I simply watched TV for a little bit. The first thing that popped up was the news about massive casualties in the Deck Market due to four Astral Soul Machines chasing a Jet Streamer... ours. Apparently there were roughly 93 dead, with several more vehicles damaged; from simple fender benders to cars turned wrecks. I really couldn't believe we were newsworthy.

The other memorable thing on television was a show called "Wild Roses," an action and romance live action show taking place in the Wild West, starring a stereotypical cowboy type guy falling in love with a Native American lady. Both of them seemed unhappy with their faction and just wanted to live together without interruptions — something I was down for watching even though I didn't see anything before episode 12.

Before long, I drifted to sleep.