Views of Stroud intended as an introduction to the city and three characters, two major and one minor, did not do the job to my satisfaction. I am happy with Views from the Top, but not middle or lower. Pulling the pieces apart I am focusing on each individually before putting them back together. Along the way introducing more about each character and their motivations. This is Near the Bottom…middle and upper expansions and revisions soon.
Near the Bottom…
Heat and humidity of Lower Stroud smack John in the face hard. Closing his office door John scans the area, old habit and key to longevity in Stroud. Smirking, John nods towards three members of the Mechanics, a local gang, attempting to look tough, not bored, outside of the Stop-n-Rob across the street. A few neon and holo signs plastering the front of the store remind him of things he needs…or wants. Turning away from his office, nothing new or unusual.
City services non-existent, garbage everywhere. Stepping over a “new” pile, John notes the taggers had a field day decorating all of the old model ground vehicles parked on both sides of the street. A sixteen-wheeled hauler rumbles past splashing water and garbage everywhere. Overhead, flight lanes packed with people heading to work.
Rounding the corner, John looks up, above nothing but concrete, glass, conduits, walkways, and elevated highways as far as the eye can see. The higher up, the more ways not to touch the ground. Closer to the ground, a mess. Ever present the “Cloud,” a collection of weather and pollution literally and metaphorically dividing Stroud into Lower and Upper. A few drops of “rain” splattering John’s coat and ground, sizzling where they touch.
Work, not wishing, the key to moving his office and life from Lower Stroud higher up. Pulling his wraparound smart glasses out of an interior pocket, John scanned the street for trouble one last time. Nothing. Nothing at all.
Still Low, an hour later…
Work, not wishing, Larry’s Bail Bonds fell into both. Necessary for those down on their luck, common to Lower Stroud, and work to people like John. Another “big score,” Larry knew how to get John back into the office. Standing outside Larry’s office, warring with his need for a job and Larry’s last “big score;” chasing a herg through a chop shop, into a bakery where in an explosion of flour he managed to knock the herg down only to find out he had taken care of his bail issue an hour earlier. Bracing for the worst, chasing down a bondskip illietheril extreme glider, John opened the door.
Striding through Larry’s front door John admired Larry’s desk. Despite the century, Larry kept paper records, piles of paper everywhere. Decorating the desk around the piles of paper, an ashtray filled with crumpled smokes and bits of paper. Two cups, John assumed coffee, on opposite sides of his desk sat on top of smaller piles of paper. Between the two tallest stacks of paper, an ancient battered monitor sat surrounded by chewed on pens. Behind all of this, Larry.
Corpulent, sweating and balding, wearing the same brown sweater and shirt John always saw him in, Larry looked up from the monitor as John entered, his beady black eyes narrowing with that look he got right before he gave bad news. Sometimes, John wondered if Larry ever moved from the chair. If there was a life support system hidden under the desk keeping Larry alive. John shook his head with amusement at the thought.
“Glad to see you are in a good mood. Have a seat,” gesturing to the only non-paper covered object in his office, “I got a big one for you and it could be the last job you ever have to take.”
“That big?” John said with obvious sarcasm.
“Three days ago Redtwist skipped out on his court hearing.”
“So. The cops can track him down. Why you bothering me with this one?”
Larry reached into a drawer on his right side, pulling out a battered brown box and dropping the box without ceremony in front of John.
“That’s why. Open it up?”
The odor of decay emanating from the box was palpable.
“Let me guess, his hand.”
“That’s why you’re the best,” sneered Larry.
“Like I said, your last job.”
Needing the isstas and wanting out, “I’ll take it,” John said. “Send the files to my car.”