Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer

He pulled the collar of the leather duster tight around his neck. It offered little protection against the rain. It wasn’t rain. It was the unceasing, oily downpour of condensation dripping from the environment units of the dwellings of those who lived a thousand feet above the human flotsam below.

He had been someone once. A soldier. A warrior. Now he was down here, among the faceless, the invisible. Looking up, he could just make out the blimps drifting above the buildings, reflecting the distant sunlight. They housed the truly wealthy. Floating in the clear sunlight. A sun that never shone into the man made canyons.

“Hey Handsome, want some honey?” A whore, pupils dilated from designer drugs her government subsidized ’nites couldn’t keep up with, opened her blouse, revealing a pair of small, dry breasts. He walked on without a word.

“Fuck you asshole,” she shrieked.

He thumbed the cerasteele blade in his pocket and rolled his shoulders deeper into his coat. He hadn’t gone far when he heard the hooker again.

“Get your fucking hands off me… hey what the… hey… HEY.”

He turned to see three young punks clawing at her clothes. Ripping off her blouse. One grabbed her around the waist and with his other hand reached under her skirt, savagely ripping off her panties. “Who’s first,” he laughed. Pedestrians along the wet, grimy street shuffled blindly on.

In a few short strides he was on them before he realized what he was doing. His composite ceramic/steel knife materialized in his hands, its blade oscillating thousands of times a second. In an instant, two of the attackers were down. The blade passed effortlessly through their throats. They fell to the gutter before twin crimson fountains spouted from their necks.

The third got to his feet and backed away. “Hey, fuck you man. You want some of this,” he taunted, slapping his chest. He looked down just in time to see the hilt of a knife sprout from his sternum. He looked up and stared dully at the large man facing him. The blade in his chest disappeared as it was recoiled on an invisible molecular line, itself more dangerous than the blade. The kid sank to his knees and slowly slumped to the pavement.

He turned to face the prostitute. She sat on the sidewalk crying silently, pulling the remains of her blouse across herself trying to cover what only a moment before she had so brazenly revealed. He reached down and in a soft calm voice asked if she was okay.

“Yeah, yeah,” she stammered between sobs, “I think so.”

He removed his heavy cloak and draped it over her shoulders. In the same moment, he clicked his teeth and ordered a taxi with a subvoc command.

“I’m… I’m so sorry… what I did… what I said…,” her voice trailed off. She began to cry again.

He folded her in his arms. She leaned into him, her body wracked with sobs. Soon a cab drifted up and settled to the ground before them. Gently he helped her into the back seat and fixed her restraints. To the driver he said, “Take her… somewhere. Somewhere nice.” He shoved a wad of bills into her hands. Archaic perhaps, but still legal tender. With a soft hand he lifted her chin until her eyes met his. “Just because you live down here, doesn’t mean you have to become one of them.”

He closed the door and the taxi soared off into the night. He continued his walk. “I think Houston is playing tonight,” he said to himself.

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