Stepping out of his office, the one two punch of Lower City heat and humidity smack John in the face. A few drops of “rain” splatter on his jacket and ground in front of him, sizzling for a brief second. The sound of traffic flying overhead obliterates the “natural” sounds of the City. Before heading to his car, John takes stock of the street, a key to longevity and a skill hammered into him through years as a police officer.
Garbage everywhere, city services non-existent. Oppressive odors from the factories mask the stench of garbage. Graffiti, mostly gang tags and 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 background 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.
Looking up, 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.
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; Stroud is a living breathing entity and the City likes to keep secrets. Never seen outside of Crescendo. Crescendo, his home and if word on the street was true, more than his home, but his treasure trove as well. The treasures Fade knew gave him power and influence. Fade is connected.
John hated Fade’s Lennon’s; small, round lensed sunglasses; lights from Crescendo’s dance floor reflecting off the lens, and perpetually hanging off the end of his nose. John thought of Fade’s Lennon’s as an extension of Fade’s mood. Fade always managed to impress and irritate John in the same breath; never speaking above a whisper, even when sitting across from John, he could still hear him over the latest the pounding bass quadstomp.
“You need to hear this,” whispered Fade, Lennon’s reflecting blue.
“You have my attention,” said John, his eyes locked on Fade’s hated Lennon’s.
“The word on the street is that you are looking to cause trouble,” Fade whispered, Lennon’s reflecting blue.
“And.” John let the statement, question, and confrontation hang in the air.
“The street don’t like that. The street is saying wait.”
“Or.” Again, John let the word hang in the air.
“The street will get its due,” Lennon’s reflecting reds and yellows.
“What does that mean? Fade don’t you…Damnit!” Slamming his hands onto the table in frustration as, Fade, living to his namesake disappeared into the shadows of the booth. The last thing John saw, those hated Lennon’s reflecting yellow and orange.
Standing up, scanning the packed dance floor, John thought about Fade’s warning. Straightening his jacket, slipping on his wrap around glasses; the glare and flare of the lights on the dance floor reduced to a manageable level, John moved through the crowd, always on the lookout for trouble. Old habits die hard.
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 looking down upon Stroud, the moon.
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 his house blew 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. Mentally correcting himself, Ul-il-tal-Ar’tam, although she preferred Ulla. Floating into the room Ulla, 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, golden in color and resembled a seashell, hover generators on the underside, a light pink color. A slender golden corral shaped arm on each side of the abdomen. Mr. Slade never inquired why she was brain-boxed or when; he assumed the disease 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…”