Near the Bottom…
In Stroud, there are many places where a person looks up and only see glass, concrete, and signs of life, if the thousands of vehicles flying above were another form of life. Sunlight a myth, told to children in the same manner as the mythical man who brings gifts to good human children on a day long since forgotten. Some think the sun, if such a thing exists, is owned by the powerful and wealthy of Stroud. Rain falls from the sky, but not from rain clouds, and burns exposed skin. The temperature at the bottom never fluctuates, hot and humid in Stroud; at least in the parts of Stroud where John lives and moves.
John looks up not because he is looking for the sky; years as a police officer taught him looking up was vital to longevity. Overhead, cars and trucks fly by at breakneck speeds following the city mandated flight lanes. Under the flight lanes, walkways, pipes, girders, wires, power lines, and other detritus of life crisscross over the street, connecting one building to another. In many places, the connections from one building are dense enough to appear as if one building is attempting to absorb the other. For a brief moment, John wishes he could live above the street, never having to touch the ground again and from that lofty wish; he would be able to look up and see the sky, look down, and if he was rich enough, never see the ground again.
The moment over, John quickly scans the area around him, garbage everywhere, city services non-existent. The oppressive odors of the factories mask the stench of garbage. Graffiti, mostly gang tags, but a few pieces of “art,” cover every surface, even the parked cars. A few older model non-hover cars, belonging to the factory workers, line both sides of the street. A ground truck rumbles past picking up or dropping off something for the factories all over the block. The ever-present din of the city reverberates through every object. Across the street, three members of a local gang, the Mechanics or something like that standing around the entrance of the all-night stop-n-rob trying to look tough, not bored. Neon and holo-ads illuminate the front of the store advertising products inside; plastered everywhere else, paper ads advertising products and services for those with isstas. Just another day in paradise, John thought straightening his jacket, and wrap-around-glasses, while walking down the street to his meeting.
In the Middle…
Fade loves the city; to him Stroud is a living breathing entity. The City likes to keep secrets. The City loves to swallow up the unaware, the failing, and the unlucky by the score. Success of any kind, something a person fought for, hard. Fade knew many of the ins and outs of the city, but even he would say he did not know them all. Because of that willingness to accept that fact, he was still around. Never seen outside of Crescendo, anyone who wanted to find Fade could find him there. Crescendo, his home and if word on the street was true, more than his home, but his treasure trove as well. What was stored in that trove, anyone’s guess. Whatever treasures Fade kept gave him power and influence or so the word on the street said. Fade was connected.
At the Top…
The view of the top of the city was magnificent; top floors of the city lit up like jewels, nightclubs and party spots particularly bright and colorful, the colorful lanes of vehicles flying throughout the city adding to the view. Hovering over downtown, The Floating City aglow from the lights of the buildings and anti-collision lights. Everywhere giant holographic advertisements stuck to sides, tops of buildings, and hovering near traffic lanes selling their wares to anyone who could see or hear them. Not a cloud in sight and the moon was looking down upon Stroud.
Stepping back from his panoramic window, grabbing a drink off the edge of a table, Mr. Slade cast a quick view at the vid-display on one of the windows. Stocks were up. Stepping back to the widow, drink in hand, Mr. Slade smiled at the latest Saertai Pharmaceutical ad floating past the window; a herg sneezing hard enough that the house he lived in was blown down. Watching the advertisement finish, Slade went back to watching the flow of nighttime traffic while working through the issues of the day.
The view never failed to impress. Not just anyone could have this view every day. Taking a sip from his drink, Mr. Slade thought about the attempt on his life tonight at the Tumbledown Charity Dinner. Aware he had enemies, Mr. Slade liked to think of them not as enemies, but as challenges to overcome and people who kept him at his sharpest. Without these challenges he might become complacent and lazy. That would not do. Another smile, Mr. Slade thought about how he did not want to attend the dinner in the first place. He would have to check on Tic-Kill’s injuries and get him another reward for saving his life. The publicity, if managed correctly, would be invaluable to Mr. Slade.
A single chime announced the silent arrival of Ulla. Slade mentally corrected himself, Ul-il-tal-Ar’tam, although she preferred Ulla. Floating into the room Ulla, was a Nemtsa Brain-box; a nemtsa who had their brain encased inside a technological marvel allowing them to continue to live long after their body had ceased functioning. Her brain-box like most consisted of a two-foot long abdomen with various arms and attachments on the outside. Ulla’s abdomen was golden in color and designed like a seashell, hover generators on the underside were a light pink color. She only had two arms, both slender and designed to look like pieces of gold corral. Mr. Slade never inquired why she was brain-boxed or when, he just assumed that it was because of the disease that all nemtsa contracted at some point in their life. He mentally kicked himself for that oversight and made a note to find out why.
“Sir, sorry to intrude, but I have some updates on today’s news and developments,” Ulla said, she had a light and airy voice, no voice-modulation at all.
“That’s alright, I was just beginning to wonder myself,” responded Mr. Slade.
“As you may have noticed on your vid-window most stocks rose. Stock transactions for the day resulted in a profit, which were following your orders re-invested. Your incident from tonight has made the news, unfortunately…”