Spread the love.

The casino was small, in the lower downs, close to the slums where Berserker had grown up. It was dead at this hour, just him and the lounge singer and a couple of drunks starting early.

He stared emptily into his glass, feeling the door in the back of his mind straining to open, the door with red behind it. He would kill tonight. Without the red, without the rush, the nanobots in his blood would crash his entire system. “You have to feed the monster,” the Director had said. Like Berserker could help it.

The music stopped, and the Neon-clad lounge singer, wearing rings of thick light that did nothing to hide her curves, stepped off the stage and picked up a call on her visor.

He could hear everything that was said on the call. He heard things even she didn’t. She was in debt with the Suras, and tonight, there would be trouble.

She saw him watching her and approached. “What are you drinking, soldier?”

Soldier. Sure. His eyes would be normal-passing gray in his idle state. He probably looked like a merc on leave, looking for love on Valentine’s.

“Whisky,” Berserker said.

She ordered one for herself. They hid the machines that made the drinks, but he could hear humming and clanking and the precise flipping of a bottle. He reached out, and like clockwork, the drink slid across the bar into his hand.

“What did you think?” she asked, eyeing him as he handed the drink to her.

“You sounded good,” he said. It felt fake. All of it. The whole human facade. The Director liked to pretend he wanted Berserker around citizens because he was interested in Berserker's humanity, but they both knew the truth. His heart thrummed louder, like someone was trying to kick down that door in his mind.

“Is that lipstick on your neck? Seems somebody got a headstart on Valentine’s Day.”

“You got me,” Berserker said. It was blood, not lipstick.

“I’ve been singing here for almost three years, and I’ve never been farther from getting out of this shithole.” She touched his arm.

He fought the instinct to manifest his armor. It’d been years since he’d felt a touch that wasn’t meant to kill. The pounding got louder, like the door to the red was splintering.

“Do you have plans for Valentine’s day?”

“People still do that?”

Happy Valentine's

“Oh yeah. Everyone. When was the last time you went outside and looked at the sky? Haven’t you seen all the messages written in Neon up there?” She sighed. “Some people just send hearts up there. It doesn’t matter if it’s a card or a box of chocolates, everyone just wants a heart on Valentine’s.”

Berserker took a drink, said nothing.

She looked at him expectantly. “So, what do you say we get out of here?”

The pounding was suddenly deafening, and he felt the nanobots flooding his system with adrenaline. He knew his eyes were turning red, and he shoved himself off the stool, covering them with his hand.

Hey, are you okay?" she asked.

The double doors to the casino smashed open. Two grunts wearing Saru masks, like trollish old men's faces, stepped through. The single security guard was backhanded with a hot-blade before he could finish shouting, the two pieces of him sliding off one another like steaks. The drunks scattered, falling over chairs as they fled.

One Saru grunt pointed at the lounge singer. She froze, shaking. She was about to die.

"Good timing," Berserker said.

He threw open the door in his mind, and invited the red in. It rose, it roared, it blotted out the world. It was painful and terrible and exactly what he needed. Why did he ever shut it off?

It only took three strides to reach the grunts, cutting an angle so the two of them were lined up perfectly. He didn't have a blade, but he didn't need one. His arm went straight through the first grunt's front ribs, through the back ribs, and into the ribcage of the second grunt.

He shoved their lifeless bodies off his arm, like he was pulling out a blade, enjoying the serrated edges of their bones scraping his skin.


He strode toward the lounge singer. The red was fading, and there was a single irregular beating slowing in his palm.

He put the heart on the bar in front of her and looked into her large, wet eyes. “You wanted a heart?”

She screamed, and he smiled back at her. He really had been trying to do more for this world, to channel his impulses constructively. He could feel good about this.

"Happy Valentine's Day," he said, walking through the blood and out into the darkening streets of Neon City.