System Failure

Only the obvious things in life are what they really appear to be. If anything gives you doubt, look at it closer. You might find something interesting.

There was once a time where her life was a mess of one's and zero's - the coding that flickered across a screen in a dark room. There was once a time her life revolved around routine and stayed in the realm of the expected.
There was once a time he thought his days of searching would never end. There was once a time where his only hopes of romance remained from watching from afar.
There was once a time she thought love was stupid and unnecessary - unneeded.
There was a time when his life seemed to be predictable and easy.
But time is unstable and always changing. There may be many things that once were, but that's past tense.
Because that was then,
And this is now.

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2. ("10")

Computers have lots of memory but no imagination

 

"Dad, food."

The said man stares at the person feeding him with confused eyes, pushing the spoon near his mouth away like an upset child. Seung sighs and pulls the glass of vodka away from him when he reaches for it.

"Hyun Ae, I promise I'll inspect your urine sample later." He mumbles. Seung drops the spoon and Yoora snorts from the kitchen, holding a spoon up to her own mouth. A loose noodle hangs from her lip, but she sneezes and it threatens to fall out. Seung narrows her eyes in remembrance.

With Seung's famous luck, Yoora was sick again, but it wasn't a cold. The last man just happened to have some STD and forgot to mention it. Yoora complained for hours on how it made her less attractive and Seung finally agreed to take her place, angrily muttering about how it was a good thing she stopped by that day.

With canned soup on the stove, and Yoora looking more human than normal, it was her job to disguise her face and dance for people in a half hour. Her makeup was already half done, just the eyes, but she was taking the bus. There was no way she was going full-out while riding the bus.

At the club, she was known as a rare appearance. When she came, she always went the same. She was a reliable face that was impossible to lure in. The other girls came into the audience for lap dances and 'extra' affections, but she mostly remained on the stage and didn't accept any extra sum of money for anything special. Her costume was always the same, too. It was almost like she was the Cinderella of the strip club.

She wanted to keep it that way. The less outsiders knew about her, the better.

With silver eye shadow and dark blue liner, her icy blue contacts stood out. She refused to go onstage with any resemblance of her normal features. She grabs a bag with her costume, makeup and emergency cell phone. She didn't use it often, but it was there when she knew she might need to be contacted.

With a quick check to make sure her mask was in there, and that her dad was being lead into his bedroom by Yoora, she sighs and steps out into the cooling afternoon sun.

 

Chanyeol knew this was a bad idea.

First off, it was his birthday. His birthday, not theirs. If they wanted to go to the stupid place, leave it to them. He just wanted to curl up on his couch with a bowl of popcorn and watch his favorite movies, maybe daydream about how he'll ask Seung to be his research subject.

Secondly, if they want to go to such a place and their other friends find out that they even knew a place like this, things will fly, and not wedding day rice or flower petals.

Thirdly, he promised his parents that he would not be stupid and get as drunk as possible on the first day he turns 21. If anything, he would be the driver for all of his other friends on their 21st birthdays.

Not his.

In his defense, he was deliberately forced into a car. It was Kai's idea of where to go, since he was driving, and it was Sehun's idea of how to get him in the car. Sure, it was his fault her tried to grab a cookie when they drove by an offered one to him, but it was them who grabbed the back of his shirt and dragged him in through the open window and sped off. He was pretty sure they could be charged with kidnapping for that.

He wasn't even sure how they fit his tall body in through that window anyway. It's not like the car is that big.

Now, Kai almost duct taped him to his chair when they sat him down near the front of the joint and ordered something strong, proudly flashing his age around and waiting for the show to start. They came in on time, because a rare appearance was here to dance for them. Kai nudged him with a smirk, obviously seen her before. Chanyeol slumps in his chair and plans to just ignore the dancing women and maybe play games on his phone, but that was taken by Baekhyun.

He was left with nothing to do but maybe doze off.

Unfortunately, loud music and people cheering suddenly starts and completely prevents him from sleep right now. Scandalous women strut out and take places at poles, one centered and several around the club. Lights flash blue and white, along with electronic noises that were supposed to introduce something special. Kai leans back in his chair and prepares for a show.

One special woman catches his attention. She looked different than the others. Her bikini-like outfit had longer sleeves with squares cut along the top of the arms, and one dark blue stripe down the entire front. Something about the way she moved her body, though, reminded him of something.

He couldn't place her.

She takes her place and he notices her mask, like she was supposed to be a robot. her moves were smooth, though, and she easily climbed up the pole when the times came for that move. The more she walked around the pole, however, the more the graceful spell broke and he thought of something.

What was so familiar? Was it the glide she made when she grabbed metal and swung in the air? The way she acted like no one was watching? Maybe it was the way she hesitantly would step onto the elevated square like it would move out from under her.

Chanyeol's blood freezes and he stares. It couldn't be.

Her black hair, usually high off her face, covered most of her head, but it was similar. He had to look closely or it wasn't visible. Chanyeol's eyes never stray off of her. He wanted the illusion to stop, yet he never wanted it to end. Kai squeezes his shoulder at one point, but he doesn't even respond.

When the show ends and the usual dancers resume, he turns to them, his mouth wide open. His drink was untouched - he didn't even know when it came to the table.

"To celebrate tonight, we all decided to help you become more of a man. We chipped in for a little something." Kai says over the music, passing an envelope with the markings of $50 on the top. Chanyeol gives it a confused glance and Sehun looks at him closely.

"A teasing tango?" He asks.

"Crotch cupid-shuffle?"

"I thought it was crotch conga."

"What?" Chanyeol looks at his friends with an absurd look.

"A lap dance, Yoda." Baekhyun exclaims, poking one of his ears in a tease of their size.

"What? No!"

"It's your present and it will be spent on nothing more." Sehun stubbornly insists.

"Now chose which one and we'll ask." Kai urges, gesturing around. Chanyeol swallows and thinks about his girl, well, his soon-to-be girl. Since when was she a stripper? Did she not have a normal job, or did she actually like it? What did she do during the day, then?

Maybe he could ask her. His eyes travel to the envelope.

He suddenly shakes his head to clear his thoughts. He wouldn't be able to handle it if it was her. He'd be blushing and stuttering so much they'd all think he was having a heart attack of some kind.

What was her stage name again?

Cursing his blank mind, he takes the drink up when the guys cheer him on for a toast to his birthday, trying alcohol for the first time. As soon as the fruit concoction passes his lips and burns his throat, he coughs like they poisoned him. He couldn't quite say he liked it.

"Three more!" Kai orders, waving a waitress over after seeing the thoughtful expression on his friend's face. Baekhyun was the assigned sober-cap this time, which he was fine about until Suho came to join them. He said he would get there if he could, and he rarely drinks.

The buzz hits the inexperienced birthday boy and he can already feel the vibrations of the music more, but he simply takes a deep breath when another song goes on and Seung reappears, and his attention was stolen. His confused mind fell silent when she spun on the edges of her heels and would climb the pole with the skin of her legs - which appeared painful - only to practically fall and stop before she hit the ground, astounding the crowd.

She was skilled, even if he didn't think it was a good one to have.

"I see you like Matrix." Sehun teases. Chanyeol doesn't even look at him.

"Don't waste your breath. She doesn't take money for personal dances" Kai growls in distaste over the music. Chanyeol's hand goes up to cover his mouth, Matrix inching to the edge of the stage. They chose a table front and center; she was getting closer.

Her hair flips in the air and she dips on her knees, close enough for Chanyeol to see intricate android patterns inscribed on her temple with some sort of makeup. Her body rolls and pulses with the music, getting back up and swirling on the floor.

So, she did listen to music. No one simply could dance like that without feeling the beat in your soul. It wasn't possible.

Chanyeol's breath catches when she actually hangs a leg off the side of the stage, kicking it up and letting her body hang off the side where it once was. Kai smirks and hands her a bill, watching as she slides it down her body and tucks it into the seam of her clothing, letting it stick out. Chanyeol wishes she would look him in the eyes, wishes she wouldn't look him in the eyes. It was a battle to want to be recognized and to not be seen.

She probably wouldn't even remember him anyway, let alone know his name by morning.

When she does give him a glance, he could read her emotions in her eyes. Boredom, annoyance, disgust. He knew right then and there that she didn't want to be here, performing for these people.

She flips her body up again, but doesn't get far on the stage. The other girls fill in behind her as they perform some sort of group dance, their bodies weaving in with each other. One way or another, they all appeared to be having dancing with some object, whether it be the floor, another person, or a nearby pole.

Next thing he knows, though, she makes some sort of symbol with her hands and they spread out, a few of them getting on the open bar, others taking evenly spaced out tables. Matrix plants her feet right on Chanyeol's table and kneels in front of Sehun. Chanyeol watches her from the side, eyes glancing down at his envelope. His long fingers quickly pull the fifty dollars out and he holds it up. She looks at him and surprises them when she practically flips off the table and lands on Chanyeol's lap for the second time that day, making his ears turn red.

It was the same sensation. The angel choir wasn't quite loud enough to drown the music out, though.

Before Matrix can take the money, Kai snatches it and places it in Chanyeol's open mouth, smirking more when the woman places a hand on his tall shoulder and leans in close, making eye contact.

She recognized him. He knows she did.

Matrix leans in close to Chanyeol's ear and he feels her breath, his blood pumping faster in his veins. His heart rate speeds like never before and heat floods his face when she starts to pull back, carefully grabbing the bill with her own teeth and suddenly back on the stage, dancing like nothing happened. Chanyeol spots his bill in the top of her costume, sticking out of her collar.

Kai snickers when the music ends and Chanyeol looks at him, seeing him shake his head.

"You're so whipped."

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