(Some of the content may not have made its way into the manuscript since this was during the brainstorming period.)
I tried to tell her about The City. But she was too trusting. It's always been that way ever since I met her at the Dril, down by the Platforms, you know, over in the Nine's. I couldn't believe she was there by herself. Something deep inside me told me this day was coming. But I thought - nah, that's just my own cynicism talking. But I know The City. It's all angles and sharp edges. There's nothing soft about life in this place. Yeah, people talk about The Lush, but that's a dream. The City is always watching. And man, it's patient. But, the moment you slip it's there. Not to catch you, but to devour you like it hasn't eaten in weeks. I should've known falling in love was stupid. Not here, not in The City. Because once you show The City a hint of weakness, it's coming for you. Now, she's gone. They took her last night. Delve said they snatched her right off the street, in front of a zbonji hover truck. She loves gallic sauce on her munda. That was 2 hours ago. I almost killed him for waiting so long to tell me. Even though I know it's stupid to think you can take something back from The City, I'm on the hunt now. Because even though The City took her, I'm going to get her back. Why? My name is Zel, I'm a Hell Hunter, and I love her.
The City is full of people who never get to speak to the dead. Speak WITH the dead, that is.
It’s one thing to talk down at a grave, tears raining onto the headstone, staining it cobalt gray. It’s another thing to talk to the Shedders that claw their way out of the muck, slow of step and speech garbled; filled with thoughts and feelings that once belonged to someone else…and those newly endowed.
Nonetheless, the talking dead keep us mindful of those who have passed on…and that death is just as impermanent as life.
- Lazani Blaq, Body Banker
Where can I go? Where can I hide? All I do is run. Running has become so common that it scares me when there is a moment, no a fleeting second of peace.
See in this world, in this place, The City, people like me are only good as objects sought out for our body parts, or those like me, with gifts to bring change. That's why I was a protector and also why the Militia was after me hard.
Well that's not true, the disk I carry with the coordinates to the refugee camp where we all hide is what they want. But they can't have it. I won't allow it! So I run. I run and I fight.
Screaming with the angst of my people through these shifting labyrinth based streets, the Militia and the City can't have me.
And soon they will understand and feel the reason why they will never be able to touch me.
Iset - The Protector
From the base of sleepless nightmares
to the hallelujahs of heaven's arch
lies in between
The Lives that dwell in the reality of
Around every corner
Under every keystroke
between spells of craft
are more questions
What is this place?
Where can a Soul go
to find refuge and security?
In a Crowd
Watched by Everyone
Fate is stingy
Destiny is rude
A wicked disposition.
And this is a good day...
in The City.
- Resident of The City.
This is the biggest nightclub here in the City, heck it's the only nightclub. Everyone whose a partygoer comes here to let loose and shed their inhibitions. The music is dope, the DJ's have the livest music. Each floor has it's own theme. The owner though, I won't talk about him. He does his business while I let people through the doors. One thing I heard about him is that he does business with the runners. I don't know what but that's the rumor. Probably not a rumor because I saw a couple of runners in his office. I don't want to speak to much on him; he's my boss and I need a job.
Wyse, The Bouncer. Club Ooze (Named after the drug).
'You just won't go away will you? How do they watch us? We all have Tells, everyone of us. Not tails, Tells. Reach behind you head. Now touch the back of your neck. Right there, that's where it is, or rather that's where it starts. The old books...I mean the old vids say It used to implant them right after we were created. But It figured how to make it a part of us, just like your heart, you lungs, your brain. It automatically connects you to the Wave...and to The City. Can it be removed? Yeah. You can have it surgically removed, if you can find a Scalper brave enough to do it. But even the best Scalper can't get it all. It grows back. But you can Purge it. Purging will scour your brain of every bit of the Tell. If you survive it, you'll most likely go crazy. Most do. Those that don't become Runners. But then most folks think Runners are crazy, just controlled crazy. Now that's it. No more questions. You're going to get us snatched.'
-Knowledge Lateef. Street Priest.
To murder all of those who murdered me was a simple thing. Especially with Them at my back. But, to add insult to injury, that required a plan. And I had one.
I first had to stop by The River. Make a withdrawal, so to speak.
Before I was killed, I'd used The River as my own personal banking system. That's where I kept the dirt on the scum in high society that my family catered to. My mother was a master of the high society social circuits. Politicians and corporate heads, well-to-do families, they all came to her when their influence wasn't enough. She used her smiles and beauty like a sword. And I was her constant companion, learning all that she had to teach.
But where my mother was light, I was her shadow. By the time I was ten, I'd already learned how I could help her every endeavor reach fruition. I started with kids my age. The sons and daughters of the rich and powerful. I'd drive them into corners that they'd have to stain themselves to escape. I forced them to commit crimes that could ruin their families. Then, I kept their secrets. I became their best friend in the worst way. Almost brings a smile to my face.
Then, there was my father.
My father was famous...
He'd led the Culling that took place 20 years ago. With him at the head, thousands of Believers across 30 wards were slaughtered. Over a thousand by his own hands. He'd become a legend that night. That monster under the bed and in the shadows that never went away, but was never there when you turned on the lights.
The Sun Tower was the epicenter of a night of death like no one had ever witnessed before. Not that anyone really remembers anything before then, anyway. All anyone remembers anymore is The City, and the infectious fear that invaded even the wards that were untouched by the Culling. That was the birth of the taboo that no one escapes, except through death.
My father raised me to believe that The City was everything. He'd risen to heights that caused envy in those around him by brutality and cold calculation. It was because of his brutal nature that he'd been given command of The Left Hand, the group that watched and dealt swift "justice" to those whose who dreamed of escape. Those who hoped. I am definitely my father's son.
With the death of my father and myself, The Left Hand was dissolved and They began to fuel the fear that kept The City breathing. Funny how the politicians and corporate heads can't even imagine that They are in my hands. And that They are coming for the light.
They've pissed me off. I've been pissed for five years, now. And it's about time that these bitches realize.
~Ososi~ on the way to The River
Rain pattered the empty street, almost washing away the plumes of fetid odor from the piles of trash that heralded the unresolved garbage collector’s strike. Despite the rain, the smell rose up like thin tentacles to the upper floors of the Four Seasons building, which had to open its windows to the night because the air conditioning was off—a result of the City’s electricity rationing. As an organic building, the Four Seasons itself decided when to turn off people’s air and water—when it had the electricity to do so. Sometimes residents loudly cursed the building’s decisions, their yelling echoing in the hallway, but they could do nothing to reverse the decision. Some said the building was going insane, turning on the heat in 90-degree weather, or turning off the hot water when it was 20 degrees, but I knew better. She—I called it a she—was punishing wayward parents and cheating spouses with her own brand of justice. People were just too stupid, or stubborn, to figure it out.
My name is Concordat. Formally, a concordat is an agreement between the Holy See and some sovereign government relating to matters of mutual interest. But the Holy See has abandoned its True Purpose, so I took it upon myself to carry it out. I seek the lost, the bedraggled, the poor, the forgotten, and the lame, and make sure nobody f*cks with them. Cuz that’s what the rich and powerful do. F*ck over everyone who’s not in their circle in order to maintain the status quo.
But I’m sick of the status quo. And I’m about to f*ck with it.
Another shift, another mess. You would think with half the nastiness that goes down in the low levels, where the Sun Towers light doesn’t reach eyes, you would think that something as…bloodless as this would be a relief but…it’s not.
At half past 3rd shift, just outside Trinity, the Soors tried a take down. They went after the new guy…the Rebel who’s been going after the gangs.
Six of them set him…or HER up. There was a rumor going around that the Silvers Cartel were moving into the 215 and had built an outpost at Trinity. Turned out to be bogus; the Soors wanted to go after the Rebel and figured after all the trouble he’s been giving them…
…and the Lords…
…and York’s people…
…and of course us…
…well they figured he’d go after the new outpost, which he did.
But they failed to get him at Trinity…or maybe that’s what he wanted them to think, ‘cause he lead them down, deep down into the lowers, beneath Trinity. All the way down to the hollows in the understructure.
And that’s where one man took out six of the Soors best hitters. Or one woman… or maybe one of the breeds…but never met breeds that work alone like this guy.
Can’t be borged up either because a week prior the Lords tried to get him with an EMP. Idiots shut down the 4th level processor in the process but they didn’t even slow him down.
Six Soors…they’re not all that’s down here though.
Looks like a small security contingent. Hardware is wiped but I’ve seen the Purples people before. Killers dressed like business men but armed like hellcats. They clearly came down here to make a try at the Rebel as well. Looks like he got them first.
That’s nine total hitters, all taken down by one guy. Taken down but not killed.
And that’s what bothers me. This guy has disrupted the drug trade, busted two slave nests and brought down a body shop all in less than a month. All without killing a single one of the bastards.
Ward Law couldn't do any better even if half of us weren't on the take to one of the major players. Certainly could not have down it without killing anyone.
But that won’t stop the rumors. They’ll begin thinking this guy is just the tip of some kind of phantom task force of do-gooders; cops looking to actually do the job, just without the paper work. That means they think I’m involved.
Been Ward Law in the 215 for longer than most have survived without crossing over to the dark. Tried to be a good cop…figured I was the only one who went against the flow of the CITY…but here’s a guy looking to upset the system. They’re all gonna think I’m helping him alright. And the regs? They’re gonna dare to hope and dream…they’re gonna be inspired.
…Right up until the CITY notices.
Ward Law Detective in Command, Naj Rhodes. Deep below
A glint from the ceiling lights reflected off the dark spherical visors as he stepped out of the shadows to reveal himself to the four patrons sitting at the table. Wearing black from head to toe, the stranger looked totally out of place in the bright cyber café. Cladded in a Stetson hat, long leather trench coat, armor-plated vest, an utility belt draped around his waist equipped to the hilt with gadgets, and an assault rifle slung over his right shoulder; he knew he made an impression on folks. But what stood out most about him was the full face mask with mirror lenses. When people gazed into those glass eyes of his, all they could perceive were their own stares. The effect chilled most and he reveled in knowing that.