#FollowTheRabbit Pitch: A Soft, Blue Light
A SOFT, BLUE LIGHT
Science fiction, fantasy, crime
Ryu as the Byronic Hero
Sasha as the Vessel
Adelaide as the Reluctant Kingpin
Tao as the Street Queen
Asuka as the Enforcer
Naomi as the Mother, Gone Astray
Content Warning: Contains allusions to an attempted "off-screen" sexual assault
Ryu has been out of prison for three hours before he finds himself in trouble again.
In the not-so-distant future, in a not-so-distant city-state, Ryu Aogiri has just completed a two-year prison sentence for selling black market cybernetic implants. His stable career as a biomedical technician was blown apart by his tendency to self-sabotage for a quick buck. That’s something he learned from his mother, Naomi. They don’t speak anymore. Naomi wants to, but Ryu doesn’t. Silence is a lot easier than confrontation.
With only one change of clothes to his name, Ryu walks out of the state penitentiary to meet his best friend, Adelaide, outside the front gate. Adelaide is the albino drug dealer that Ryu came up with, before Ryu went straight enough to get into a steady paying job. Attracted to money and allergic to work, Adelaide could only muster enough of a secondary education in chemistry to put his skills to good use.
Adelaide’s latest concoction, Liquid Skye, has caught on since Ryu’s been in jail. Now, with a modest crew and a fair amount of territory under his control, Adelaide has become something of an accidental kingpin. Not bad for a kid from the slums.
Standing under an umbrella on a sunny afternoon, Adelaide offers Ryu a smile and a ride back into the city. Ryu agrees, if he can get a cigarette. Adelaide agrees to the cigarette, if Ryu agrees to go out with him and the rest of their burnout friends from back home to celebrate Ryu’s newfound freedom. Ryu, reluctantly, agrees.
At a host club called The Neon Owl, Ryu smokes cigarettes in the VIP lounge and waits for the night to be over. The world is awash in pink light and soft velvet. Hosts - androgynous, semi-translucent android sex workers employed by the club - amble around, serving drinks and sitting in laps. Their metal innards are barely visible under their skin and plastic outfits, eyes glowing the soft white light that codes their android classification.
White means service. Yellow means manufacturing and construction. Red means state police and military. There’s a place for every android, and every android has a place.
Adelaide is passing around strips of Liquid Skye to everyone at the table. Bored to death, Ryu makes eye contact with a host at the bar. The host has blue - blue, right? he isn’t imagining that? - eyes. It's being led to a private room by a businessman, a meaty paw placed on the small of the host’s back. Ryu feels a twitch of curiosity, a pale and regrettable feeling, but keeps it to himself.
One of his old job used to be servicing manufacturing androids with routine repairs, back before he worked his way up to peddling implants to the comfortable middle class. He knows what’s inside an android, how they think, how they feel - because they do feel something, after all. Even hosts, semi-sentient and only capable of affirmative statements. Something about it feels predatory, even if this is lost on Adelaide and the rest of their friends, currently high as kites on Liquid Skye.
Getting up to use the restroom, Ryu walks past the row of doors to the private rooms. This is where hosts perform for patrons who pay for more than just company. He doesn’t mean to look at the ajar door to Room 7, but the sound of gurgling catches his attention. The businessman from earlier lies on the floor with a torn out throat. The blue-eyed host stands above him, blood staining its hands. Its eyes glow a soft, blue light. When it speaks, it’s in a small and human voice.
“He tried to hurt me,” the android says. “I told him to stop, but he wouldn’t.”
Up close, the host looks fragile and human, the skin eerily pale but opaque. There’s no reason a host would have blue eyes or a human voice; no reason to deny consent to a paying customer. Ryu’s mind races, struggling to make sense of the scene.
“We have to get you out of here,” Ryu says. He reaches for the android’s wrist and feels the warmth of synthetic skin. “Before somebody kills you.”
“Kills?” the android parrots. “Did I do something wrong?”
Ryu doesn’t have time to answer. He peels off his jacket to put over the android’s small frame and leads it - him? - through the club to the entrance. Behind them, a shout when the body is discovered by another customer. Ryu calls for Adelaide and the others to leave and takes the android by the hand. They escape into the alley, chased by the club’s bouncers before running down the street to hop into Adelaide’s car.
Everyone is yelling. Ryu can’t think. The android sits silent and bloodied in Ryu’s jacket as the rest of the passengers panic about the murderer Ryu just saved.
“Sasha,” the android speaks up. “My name is Sasha.”
“Oh, good,” Adelaide chuckles grimly from the driver’s seat. He looks Sasha from the rear view mirror with milky eyes, pupils blown-out from the drugs in his system. “The little sexbot has a name. That makes me feel a lot better.”
Ryu snarls at Adelaide to shut his mouth. Then, turning to Sasha, says, “It’s okay. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
Ryu has been out of prison for three hours before he finds himself in trouble again, in the form of an android named Sasha. An android with blue light in his eyes and a human’s face, who likes to make tea in Ryu’s tiny kitchen and tends to a hive of synthetic bees on the rooftop for honey. Sasha is gentle with them, like he's gentle with tea cups and saucers, aware he can break them. It frightens Ryu that something so violent could be so kind. He finds it frightens him less when Sasha begins curling up beside him in bed at night, seeking the warmth of a human body.
As Ryu tracks down Sasha’s origins, even more trouble finds them all. Adelaide’s profitable Liquid Skye was a proprietary chemical stolen from his ex-girlfriend Tao and her twin sister Asuka, whose gang sell drugs for the Diamond Triad. With the streets flooded with the knock-off drug, the Diamond Triad wants Tao and Asuka to wipe Adelaide off the map and regain their territory - or else they’ll take it by force.
Soon, tensions will rise in their little city-state. Ryu will find himself caught between android traffickers, girl gangs, an idiot best friend, a wayward mother who keeps blowing up his phone, and an android who knows far more about any of it than he lets on. But, for now, he simply takes Sasha’s hand, and tells him it’ll be okay.
This is A Soft, Blue Light.