Life was good, Jack thought, as he stepped through the hatch of the bar, and out into the kaleidoscopic light of the promenade.

Above him, the neon signs were flashing, advertising the stations' entertainment, adding to the dull buzzing in his head. “GIRLS, BOYS, THRILLS!”, they proudly exclaim in hot-pinks and orangey-reds. Too much drink roaring through his veins; good whisky, mixed up with a little nexacane powder. A curvy brunette clasped his arm for stability, equally intoxicated. Something with an s? Samantha? What was her name? Didn't matter, not with how much he'd paid for the pleasure of her company. Too long since he'd taken leave, and he intended to wring every advantage from it. His boots clanking on the deck, as he ogles his companions endowments. Laughing and pawing at each others bodies, they stumble-walk down the corridor, hopping into a lift. She giggles at his inappropriate remark, as the elevator lurches to a halt on the residential deck. She falls against him dramatically, over-applied perfume swamps his nose with cheap flower blossoms, her warmth presses against him, much too close. Gently, he pushes her back, but not out of reach, as the lift dings open. Outside the lift, they half-walk, half-fall, down the dimly lit corridor, making their way toward the lewd, glowing signs above the hourly motel. Roaming hands fondle and clutch at their bodies as they struggle to remain upright.

Peering at a dark wall fixture, Jack beats it with a fist, cursing, “Damn bulbs, must be out.”

“Oh leave it baby, we don't need light to play…” She giggles, a tad drunkenly, covering a small burp with the back of her hand. Her eyes, bright against her dark skin in the hall.

Jack barely notices as two large, tough-looking men step out of the black hallway to the right. His senses are dull from drug and drink, he pays them no mind until they step into his path. He staggers slightly, coming to a wobbly stop with Samantha still giggling at his elbow.

“S’cuse me, sir, you’re in m’ way.” Slightly slurring, the drink blurs his words and reflexes.

“Yes, we are.” The larger of the two replies. He grins, a hideous thing of uneven teeth and menace, and pulls a metal rod hidden under his long, dusty jacket.

The other goon moves to block the lift behind them, and Ugly with the rod, sets upon Jack, lashing him with a solid blow to the gut. Jack keels over, coughing and choking. His rented female companion, a secondary concern, cowers; crushing herself against the side of the corridor bulkhead, trying to make herself small. She hesitates, not quite running away. Her fear of attracting the brutes' attention preventing her flight.

Did the bitch set me up? Jack thinks. But he has no time to figure out the angles. Blows rain down, hard and fast, pummelling his body into submission. Striking and kicking, they push him further back down the corridor. A second shot to the gut makes him double over. As he curls in a bruised ball on the hard metal deck, he hears a whisper in the back of his mind.

Let us help, Jack. Free us.

“No!”, Jack shouts. His augmentations, crippled by massive amounts of alcohol, but still functioning, pump boosters through his veins as his anger rises. He tries to fend the assailants off, rising to his knees. He blocks the descending alloy rod with his arm. It connects hard, cracking against his ulna, and the bone flexes, on the verge of breaking despite his augmentations.

Ugly wrenches Jack's right arm out behind him, painfully wrenching the socket, leaving him open to another ringing blow to the head. Reality flickers, but the whispers are silent. A spike of pain blooms behind his left eye. Half-blind and helpless, the goons take turns holding him, and beating him with the metal rod. Their blows are methodical, they concentrate on his organs. I'm going to piss blood for a week. Silent, but he can feel them, the whispers; pushing at the edges, probing, trying to break through.

Let go, Jack. They implore, whispering through the fog, in his dazed state he considers it.

The pain behind his eye ebbs to a dull pressure in the back of his head. As he rages at his inability to fight back, the pressure builds. A force rushes forward like a tidal wave; an onslaught on his sense of self, overwhelming his defences. Amidst the rain of blows, he feels a sudden tickle. He peers down at his arm through red, swollen eyes, and sees an impossibility: a snake coils tightly around his wrist; scales morphing into tiny blue and red flowers, it raises its angular head.

Let us in, Jack. The snake whispers, forked tongue flickering in and out of existence.

The fight drains out of him, as he drifts in and out of the grey miasma of unconsciousness. The snake seems to glow in the dim light. All thoughts of fight and escape extinguish, as his attackers work him into a dark corner of the corridor. With a thud, he feels the hard metal bulkhead, solid against his back. Ha, he thinks, I'm trapped but at least my kidneys are safe. The delirious thought forces a laugh past his cracked ribs. He reels under a renewed flurry of blows, the thugs know they've got him now. A strike against his skull, he feels control slipping through his grasp. The snake grins, and coils tighter around his wrist.

Waves batter the rocky shoreline of his mind, not clearing the haze, but suppressing; tides push Jack to the background, the shadows move forward in his place. The snake melts into his arm, hissing of revenge; how it will extract payment from these poor bastards who dared challenge them. Rage bubbles up, and with it, an overwhelming rush of adrenaline. He looks up, taking the next blow flat across his face, splitting flesh wide and splintering bone. Lunging forward, Jack watches his hand as it grabs and twists the fist holding the rod, tightening with tremendous force, twisting until the thugs arm pops loudly; either out of its socket or broken, the shadows do not care. The brute screams, and the rod drops to the deck, metal ringing loudly over the grunts and panting. Quickly, releasing bloody flesh and pressing the attack, Jack's limbs blur, his fingers jam deep into the eye sockets of the remaining assailant. His vision runs red, as he fills with a blood-lust and fury not his own.

Jack loses sight of his attackers and the world around him, as the shadows push him down under the water, waves lap at the rocks upon shore.