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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5. ("101")

The siliarities of humans and computers are more numerous than the differences.

 

Taking the bus was not an option after the police took an hour to question them. Chanyeol had to take over, because Seung got so freaked out by the authorities that she couldn't speak. He explained how he was taken by the men after an escape attempt, but he tripped before he get as far as Seung, and that she came back and found him before anything happened.

Chanyeol did walk her home, though. She noticed that the blood was from a scraped knee when he fell, but she thought it was enough to let him walk with her home after he offered, since he appeared to do it more for his own sake than her's. She guessed that maybe he wanted to befriend her, but she wasn't too open with the idea.

Seung reaches the door to her house and Chanyeol stands really close. Her shoulder was touching his arm, like he refused to get any further away. They both were facing her door, but Chanyeol appeared like he wanted to go inside. Her suspicions are proven when she goes to grab the handle and he takes a step forward to go inside with her. She stops and looks at him with eyes she tried to make blank, but, for some reason, Chanyeol could always see her emotions inside of them.

She looked ashamed, hesitant and...sad? She didn't want him to come inside, that was for sure.

"I could, um, fold laundry...?" He suggests. Seung takes her hand off the handle and looks at him fully.

"You wouldn't like it in there." She states. He could see her swallow more words, but nothing else comes out.

"You sure? I'm pretty toler-"

There's a crash of breaking glass and a woman's scream. Chanyeol can see Seung's pupils dilate as the bag falls from her shoulders and the door flies open. She's gone before he even knows what's happening, but he follows like always, taking the bag with him.

Seung keeps her shoes on as she dashes up the stairs and reaches the kitchen, barely seeing the broken liquor bottle on the ground, only focusing on the sounds of her sister. Her father had his hand around her throat, and fury in his eyes.

"I'm MARRIED!" he yells at her. Yoora trembles, struggling for air.

"Dad!" Seung yells back, grabbing his back and pulling him off of Yoora, who falls to the ground gasping. Chanyeol awkwardly stands at the top of the stairs, bag in hand. His eyes were wide.

"She started it!" He defends like a child, pointing to his eldest daughter. Yoora looked ready to go to work, and, judging by the time the officer gave her, she was supposed to leave ten minutes ago. Seung leads her father to the dining table and sits him down, folding his hands on the table and giving him a muffin from the kitchen. He stares at it with a pout and Seung reaches her sister, breaking glass under her tennis shoes. Yoora was breathing shakily, but stable. She nods to her sister and lets her lift her off the ground.

She didn't have shoes on her feet to avoid the glass, so Seung lifts her up and carries her across without hesitation. She looks at the slight bruising around Yoora's throat and pushes her into the bathroom, pulling her makeup wipes from the drawer and thrusting them into her hands.

"I'll cover you." She simply states. She was rushing now, and there could be no time wasted. She was already late as it was, but they did make more money when Matrix showed up. Maybe it would be enough for compensation.

Chanyeol was still there, and finally Seung notices him with wide eyes. She stares for three seconds, but takes the bag from his hand and hands it to her sister in the bathroom, taking her lab top out and handing Chanyeol phone back to him. Seung barely grabs her costume bag, leaving her lab top in her room, and pushes her father into his room before grabbing Chanyeol's arm and dragging him with her.

"Sorry." She mutters when they suddenly start walking at a brisk pace down the street. Chanyeol appeared to be in a daze, but wasn't showing her pity. She was glad for at least that much.

"What...?"

"I don't want to talk about it." Seung grits out, making her pace faster, "Know any shortcuts to the strip club?"

Chanyeol stares at her then, wondering what to do about his facade about not knowing. She huffs, without looking at him, and narrows her eyes at the dark street.

"I know you recognized me." She states, then asks "How fast are you at running?"

"You want me to come with?" He asks, taken back a bit.

"You'd follow me anyway."

Chanyeol smiles slightly, but shakes his head.

"My friends forced me to go. I mean, I-I don't...ever..." He stammers.

"You're not fast enough." Seung whispers. She grabs Chanyeol's arm again and starts running. For being taller, Chanyeol was actually having trouble keeping up with her. Maybe because he didn't want to hit her as she ran in front of him. Her bag was bumping against her as they sprinted the distance the bus usually covered for them. It was slower, but so was waiting for the bus to come get them, and she was pretty sure that it's usual pick up time was not right now.

They eventually reach the club, Chanyeol panting from lack of exercise in the past. He had to bend over and place his hands on his knees as he fought to catch his breath.

"You can go home at any time." Seung comments, nodding goodbye to him. Chanyeol awkwardly watches as she slips backstage and disappears, leaving him in the entrance of the club alone. He straightens his back and flashes an awkward smile to the person who collected money for admittance.

"Table for one?" She asks, tilting her head down slightly and batting her eyelashes. Chanyeol takes out his phone, 24% battery power, and lifts it to his ear. When he takes it down, he turns back to the lady and gives a dorky smile.

"Table for three."

 

The girls were quick and skilled in their profession. While one did her hair, two worked on her makeup and another helped her get dressed with the other three attached to her head. In a matter of three minutes she was ready to go, attaching the mask to her face and hearing the music that signaled their song was coming up. Seung blows a raspberry with metallic lips and rolls her shoulders back. She wanted to call Yoora and ask how she was doing. She pretty much left her half conscious with her drunk father. Not the safest move, but usually, after the makeup is removed, their dad left Yoora alone.

He was a sad sight, but the last parent they had. Both agreed that they would try to support him as much as possible. Yoora wouldn't call the cops unless she wanted to go against her own promise.

With a few cracks of her neck, she counts how many hours of sleep she would get that night, and the music ends, another remix starting as to not offend any copyrighted artist. Seung forced herself to become the alluring, sexy and graceful Matrix. Without any information of the specified routine for the night, they all decided to do an old one rather than free style. The one they choose was a backup routine everyone knew, in case something went wrong. Most of the time it was freestyle anyway, but it was just a matter of who goes where and at what time.

Two people on one pole isn't a good idea when it isn't planned, and then one of those people scampering around to find an open space isn't any better.

The lights go out and the crowd goes hushed except for the clinking of glasses and whispered orders. The girls quickly move to places and, as always, Matrix takes the pole front and center. They knew she was popular because she was so elusive and untouchable. they were the only ones who had seen her face without the mask and knew what she was leaving, leaving out Yoora and...

Chanyeol.

Seung breathes to prepare for her body to move, wondering what happened to him. Did he go home? Stay? She'd rather he didn't and just go rest. He was being friendly without any expectation of something back. That mean something true and pure. She couldn't help but get curious about what other angle he might be playing at.

He obviously was shy about what she was doing right now, but what else did he want? All relationships are made for people to get something out of it, whether it be money, love, shelter, sex, or food.

He had most of those already, so why look for more? Truthfully, she didn't know about the sex part - didn't want to - but he already proved that it wasn't about that.

The music starts and they make a sweeping gesture with their hands, like a beckoning call. The singer whispers and they move their mouths with it, flipping onto their backs and pulsing with the sudden beat that follows. They all rise with different types of slides and movements, but all were strutting confidentially to their places.

Chanyeol was in the same table as last time. They make eye contact, and she even sees his friends with him again. He must've called them for the purpose of getting home, and they just decided to watch.

Seung resists the urge to narrow her eyes distastefully at one of Chanyeol's friends, eyeing her up with a smirk. He always had the same expression, or a frustrated look when she rejected offers of money for lap dances. He was here often, and Yoora's said that he's even there on Gay Wednesdays.

They didn't know what he was, exactly; A little bit of everything.

The other friend was the one she faced when he came last. That's the most she's seen of him, but she doesn't bother herself with the men who watch her often.

Chanyeol seemed to be the exception. He appeared to be trying to not look at her ask much. Despite the multicolored lighting flooding the stage and bar area, she could see that his face and ears were getting red. She wasn't sure what it was from, though.

The song keeps going, and free style begins. Seung is allowed to roam until the climax of the song, which was a minute away. She finds herself on the edge of the stage again, looking at Chanyeol. They make eye contact and he straightens himself, the arm propping his head up dropping. It was almost like they were the only people in the room, because the way they singled each other out was instant.

Seung has the sudden feeling of nausea and tries to push it back, but it turns into a weird sort of anxious sensation in her stomach instead. That was better, but not best.

She lays on her back and places a hand on her chest, puffing it out with the beat again before swirling up and off the edge, walking towards Chanyeol's table. People were going to start fighting for this table soon, because this was the second time going to it in two days.

The friends make eyes at Chanyeol, who only blushes profusely and makes a few noises in the back of his throat, unable to speak. Seung takes off his beanie and sticks it one of his friend's head, pulling it over the man's eyes. A few people laugh and Seung mouths the lyrics, swinging her hips as she circles the table. The climax is about to start, but she takes off Chanyeol's glasses and he stares at her with wide eyes, his mouth open in shock when she folds them and tucks them into his shirt, easily climbing back on the stage to finish her routine.

All the dancers join in sync again and grab their poles with determined hands, climbing and swinging with passion. When the song does end, the crowd claps and the lights go out so the dancers can get off stage. As soon as they do, the average happens: Dancers not on stage are called for lap dances and 'special' drink orders. It's pretty much just that a dancer brings a customer their drink, but they pay extra for a specific person to present it. Matrix allowed herself to be seen doing that, but nothing more.

Speaking of 'special' drink orders, she had thirteen.

 

The car ride home was silent, but Kai had such a smug look on his face that it was a filled silence. Sehun lost the battle for shotgun after Chanyeol objected with the fact that he was almost raped that night, and that's where the silence began.

Maybe that's why Kai was smirking.

"So, uh, what?" Sehun asks, peeping his face between the two of them.

"I'd rather not..." Chanyeol grumbles, his eyes glazed over slightly. He just wanted to get home. That was all he wanted. With crossed arms, he turns his body away from them slightly as Kai drives.

"You know Matrix." Kai finally accuses. Chanyeol suddenly springs up with wide eyes, staring at his friend.

"What?! I mean, uh, no! Of course not!"

"That's all I needed." Kai states. Sehun snickers from the backseat and Chanyeol, defeated, sinks into the chair again.

"How did you know?" He asks.

"Dude, she never touches anyone more than a brush of her fingers. She took stuff off of you. Do you know how long I've wanted her to do that to me?" Kai exclaims. Chanyeol makes a distressed groan and scrunches his face up. He didn't want to see his Seung with anyone else, especially Kai.

"Don't say that!" Chanyeol hisses. He makes a move to readjust his beanie when he remembers it wasn't there, reaching back and snatching it off Sehun. The younger pouts when his hair gets all static-y and out of order.

"Ah, so you know her off stage too." Kai concludes. Chanyeol looks at him.

"Stop it! When did you become a psychology major?" Chanyeol whines. It's Kai's turn to snicker and he settles into his seat more.

"About two seconds ago." He replies. Chanyeol falls back into his seat and closes his eyes. He feel directly into their trap, again.

"Please don't ask about her. I don't really want to bring her up." Chanyeol pleads.

"She was involved in the rape, wasn't she?"

The sound that comes from Chanyeol's throat could resemble a mooing cow as he flails his limbs in an attempt to get them to shut up. They go silent again and stare in their own directions, the car turning down a street and into a large driveway. A few lights were still on inside the old fire station they converted into a house. When Chanyeol goes to open the door, the locks go down and he presses against the wall to escape any more questioning.

"You should invite her over soon." Kai suggests, glancing at him from the sides of his eyes, still smirking.

"No." Chanyeol firmly states, not trusting Kai anymore.

"Oh come on, you're saying you aren't attracted to someone with a rear end that fine?" Sehun asks, peeping his head back in between the seats.

"You're not old enough to say words like that!" Chanyeol objects, pushing his face away.

"What about that Seung girl? You seem to be getting all the ladies-" Kai inquires.

"Why did I ask you guys to pick me up, I could've walked!" Chanyeol exclaims. He pulls on the lock tab and frees himself from the confines of the car, rushing into the house and finding the stairs that lead to the bedrooms.

He passes Kyungsoo in the bathroom, brushing his teeth. As soon as he walks by, however, the shorter male follows after seeing Chanyeol's distressed face.

"Are you okay?" he asks, mouth full of foam. Chanyeol lets himself fall onto his bed and bounces lightly, staring at the ceiling.

"I had a long day. Can you tell Kai and Sehun to buck off?" He asks, sitting up enough to lean on his elbows. Kyungsoo curtly nods and turns to go back to the bathroom and spit. Chanyeol falls back on his bed and sighs, the sound of the door opening again downstairs. The other two come up into the bedrooms and he hears Kyungsoo whispering to one of them while the other gets into his own room. By distance, it's Sehun who goes into his room and closes the door behind him.

He hears the floor boards creak by his door and sits up again to see Kai leaning against the door frame, head down.

"I'm sorry I interrogated you in the car." he apologizes in monotone. When he does look up, however, there was a spark of mischief in his eyes. Chanyeol's felt this enough to know to brace himself for embarrassment.

"And...?" Chanyeol trails, expecting more. Kai's posture changes to one with his hands in his pockets.

"And I already set dibs on Matrix. I get her first." He comments. Chanyeol's mouth drops and he stares in both horror and shock. He wanted to punch Kai in the gut.

"Goodnight, Yoda." Kai calls in a sing-song voice, departing to his own room. Chanyeol could feel the heat rising to his face for the fiftieth - no, hundredth time that night.

"Kkamjong! I will poke holes in all your condoms!" Chanyeol yells after him, but lets his face fall in his hand and shakes it.

His mind goes back to Seung. He figured out what she did on Tuesdays, and now, he thinks, they were friends. She seemed to concern over him enough to save him from possible rape, even endangering herself. Maybe she didn't care that much, but she saved both of them from a recorded fate.

She was ingenious. Why did she need to work at a club for money when she probably had more smarts than all of the men in this house combined? She could be an engineer, an electronic, something related with computers even, if she was into them.

His mind makes a U-turn and he remembers the way she moved on stage that night: seductive and friendly. He couldn't contain his heart when she came closer and took his glasses off of him. They weren't real, of course, but it was oddly sexy to see her treat them with care when she hooked them on his shirt. It wasn't his fault he became a blushing virgin when she even got on stage. Knowing who she was, and being with her all day - getting to know her - made it so shocking when she transformed into Matrix. It as almost like magic.

Or programming. She obviously liked electronic related stuff. Matrix, the advanced phone charging stuff, her once-had-a-virus lab top. She probably got rid of it herself instead of hired some random company, who probably made the virus, to get rid of it.

He learned a lot about her that day. Sure, she closed up often, but she had a reason. He saw that reason. He was present when her drunken father tried to strangle her sister. Life must be hard on them, or was hard on them at one point. The oddest thing was when the dad called her Hyun Ae. It made Chanyeol think he was delusional.

He probably was. The only thing Chanyeol could think of was that Seung deserved better than that. He instantly made a promise to help her reach that better stage. He knew she didn't want to be dancing for strangers. He's seen it in her eyes many times. He could get her a better job, or at least help her get a better job. They were close enough friends now where he could ask to do that. Last time he checked, she actually let him do whatever he wanted anyway. She didn't seem to be bothered by him following her around most of the time, except when she thought he was doing it to compensate for something.

He was going to ask her to be his subject. That could get her away from the stage for a while. He could say that it was a paid study, too. Suho had money to go around. It could work. She just had to agree to letting him follow her around even more and subject her to the music of his choice. It was good for his studies, good for her money issue, and a terrific way to get closer to her.

As soon as this is set in his mind, however, it travels back to when she was on stage with her hair all curled up and lips a bright silver that shined in the light. He could've melted in a puddle for how hot his face got when she got on stage. He even knew which one she was in the dark. It was the same walk he had been following all day. It wasn't hard to miss anymore.

The way she pulsed her body with the beat - the beat that could be felt through the floor - was magical. There could've been a spotlight on her, for all he cared, because he paid no heed to anyone else when she was in front of him. This time, however, he could easily see her face under the mask. Maybe because he was sure of, and maybe because he was with her longer this time, but the shape of her face was the only thing he saw when he looked at her dance. There was no mask.

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