First attempt at Character driven writing, kind of dirty Cyberpunk future
“Com'on Chrisss, it's almost time for Distro'.”
“Assigning time already?” He replied with a groggy sigh.
Chriss threw aside the sheet of cardboard he'd been sheltering under. The board slumped soggily to the ground. It was a good shelter, not for the fact repelled water, more, it was so wet already the rain made no difference. Mostly though, it was proof against the occasional blast of searing heat or gust of icy wind the city often dealt in these backwaters.
His friend gave him a hand to his feet.
“Com'on, we'll never get a term'.”
Chriss was a small man, noticeably short but active, almost stoatish in appearance contrasted by bright eyes. His though noticeably styled, but currently an utter mess of deep brown 'through a hedge backwards' look, much like a shorter take on his taller friends. His friend, was lighter built but taller, with an even harsher face, lacking the softening features of his cohort.
“Don't worry, I've got my private one.” Chriss replied, with a grin.
“Naw, you ain't got your own? How?”
“Just get footin' there.”
Chriss brushed himself down, the creases in his damp clothes coming out easily, only to stick to his skin as they got wetter in the rain. It rained too often in this city, everyone thought so. They waded together out of the alley Chriss had been calling home for the last few months, through mounds of indescribable mush. It was one of the better squats he'd had.
“How'd you find me anyways? It's been, what, years?” Chriss asked as they began down the muddy street.
“How or why?” His friend replied.
“Yes.” He said bluntly.
They both smiled at each other, and he laughed, “Jus' asked abouts, an' needed a bit of company. I feel I'm gonna hit it big this go.”
Both of them sidestepped as a compact V-tol screamed overhead, a second later they where bathed in toxic, heated exhaust fumes. They where too used to these grotty vehicles overhead, they did not even react to the choking gasses, only paused their conversation.
“Wasn't that what you said every time?”
“Yeah, but, really. My waters are feelin' it.” He said with excitement, and almost a school girlish giggle.
“Hah. I know better about arguin' with your waters.”
Finaly they emerged from the claustrophobic city floor paths. They reached a large shop lined square; large enough for natural light to filter down to ground level, a rarity. Murky and grey light, but still refreshing compared to the neon world beyond it. In this part of the metropolis the buildings where never more then a kilometre tall, it always felt the most natural. In the centre of the city, not even the rain reached the ground. Hell, here, on a good day, you can even feel your Heyfever twitch in the wind.
Around the four walls of the square where large bustling groups of youths, all prying for position. At the head of the groups, a single terminal, four per wall, through which any information imaginable could be gleamed, but, who's single purpose here was to check hundreds of balances any second.
“See, we 'ere too late. It's gonna be hours.”
“We ain't there yet.” Chriss snaped, quietly.
He gestured down a wide alley of the opposite side of the square, down which several more terminals where positioned, the furthest one was unused. Chriss casually walked over to it, squelching through the mush of refuse carpeting the floor.
Rain was the worst weather for the city, it made everything feel dirty, turned all the dirt to molten mud and made the air unbearably humid. On the plus side, it granted protection from careless jet trails of the V-tols above.
“It's busted. The chippers gonna be dead.”
“Wanna bet?” Chrisss said, tapping his nose with his little finger, knowingly.
“Waaah, you got a Bearer? Le'see!” He cried out, surprisingly attracting no attention.
Chrisss obliged and produced the Bearable Claw from his little finger, a full three inches of telescopic black razor.
“Wow, all tha' in your little finger, that's some future shit right there.”
“Nah, you can have 'em up to nine inches, all held in the top part. Just need the monies.” He said, flexing the thin blade, extended from a small slit underneath the nail. Catching the light just right on an edge gave a wonderful rainbow effect, it could keep him amused for hours. “For enough I could'a got maulers between my knuckles, but this is more elegant and, well, I only use it for opening stuff.”
“Guess, if ya got enough gunk 'neath your skin you just gotta worry about runin'.”
“Yeah, and that's the one thing I got good enough.”
He began to shovel dirt out of the chip reader slot, his claw seemingly idealy shaped for the task.
“Tha's the one thing I could do with more of.” The larger man said, leaning against the shop window bars behind the terminal. The shops always closed on Distribution days, it was the closest thing to a national holiday left. “If I get more assigned this go, I'm gettin' mine doubled.”
“Hah, where are you gonna pull that credit from. You're hoping for a lot there.”
“Well, was gonna ragg some extra from a mate.”
Chriss replied with a pointed stare, resuming his chip slot tweaking once he was sure the message was received.
“Com'on, I'll letcha' be the first shoot me.”
“Nah, someone'll probably beat me to it anyways.” They both laughed, “Besides, I'd use really big bullets!”
He growled a response.
“Me, I'm hoping for car.”
“Hah, you're dreamin' more than me. Why'd they give ya onna them?”
“Joal got a flyer.”
“Yeah, but mistakes like that're one in a billion chance.”
“A comp' error's a comp' error, they never fix 'em.”
“True, but it weren't a week before he flew it into the London spire'.”
The larger man paused for a moment. “Oh.”
He was done, the slot was clear so he wiped down the screen and inserted his right index finger. Just thinking was enough to activate the machine once you where hooked up. The screen came to life, his favoured news feeds spread across the damaged display, and a countdown timer in the corner with only two minutes left on it. That, was how long it was until the entire nation had this months Assignment of Credit. Chriss flipped through a few menus and brought up the barren field of his bank account.
“Hah! You still register as a delivery boy.” The tall man laughed.
“Yeah, world'll always need us, should get a reliable payout each time.”
“I'ma trying priest this time. They've bin in the media a lot these days.”
“My experience, delivery monkey's most consistent payout of the unskilled jobs, priest, lower end.”
“I believe my ged'll provide it for me.”
Again, they both paused for a moment, then broken down laughing, taking his finger out of the slot. The larger man took this moment whip his single glove off and force his own index finger into the slot, pushing Chriss aside. The name Wombat came up first, no other names. His bank account came up first, no information saved as favourites like Chriss. It was under a minute till they got paid.
“Hey, this is my term'!”
“Three second rule. My term.” Wombat said back with a smile.
“You aint got anything coming to you, and you know it.”
“You can talk. You ever delivered anything?”
“You ever prayed?”
The terminal beeped.
Wombat smiled widely, it'd worked.
“Hah! Guess no one else thought of it. Four large!” He practically jumped from joy, trying not to disconnect himself. He withdrew half of it onto his personal chip there and then, two thousand credit, that alone was twice as much as he had gotten last time. One Thousand was enough to live off of, in a dank coffin flat, eating Creamed Füd™ - or if you're really lucky dog food – leaving enough for a basic data net subscription.
“Bulletproof skin, 'ere I come.”
“Do I get a turn?”
“Sure, sure, go, go.” Wombat said dismissively, he was cradling his chipped hand with glee, a great way to get yourself hurt really. The hospitals where always the busiest the night after Distro.
Chriss stuck his finger into the slot once more, flicked through menus and minimized the font size just in case anyone was looking. His payment hadn't come through yet, it normally took a few moment longer for those born and registered in the outlying areas. Refreshing it a few times brought nothing new.
Wombat glanced over, “no call for delivery boys at all this month? Exquisite!” He said feigning a dancer like flourish.
The amount came up, and Chriss suddenly felt sick. He had to stop himself from throwing up, gagging on his own tongue. He struggled to concentrate enough to withdraw what he was paid, he felt too dizzy. The world around him span. Wordlessly, he staggered away, followed by a concerned Wombat.
“What's up, not get enough to live off again?” He said, trying to sound cheery. “Dun worry, you've a nice squat, I'll getcha a heater!”
Chriss shook his head.
“No, what's up?” Wombat said again, grabbing for his shoulder, causing him to trip. His fall was broken by a soggy mound of crap, it stank but failed to snap him out of his daze.
He rose to his feet, shoulder still griped by Wombat. “They ain't got you on work detail 'ave they?”
Chriss broke from Wombats grip and ran off as fast as he could back from where they came, stumbling slightly at first. Wombat made to chase him, but lost around the first corner. It did not matter, there was only one place he could be heading.
Wombat jogged back to the squat he had found Chriss only a short while ago. He vaulted the barricade of junk across the alleys entrance and landed heavily next to a figure, curled double on the floor. He was rocking slightly, muttering something to himself.
“What's up mate? Whatcha get?”
“S ... six.”
“Six Kay? Damn.”
“Six ... hundred.”
“What!” He flung his arms into the air. “They can't get away with that!”
“No, it was.” Chriss stuttered, seemingly terrified of the idea on his lips. His eyes darted all around the dump site they sat in. He got to his feet and started throwing about all the accumulated rubbish in the alley.
“What're you looking for?”
“People! Who are listening!” Chriss was visibly shaken, frantic in his attempts to prove they where alone. Wombat grabbed him. He stared down into the little mans eyes.
“We are alone.” He stated clearly.
“Six ...” He said again. “Six hundred.”
“Yes, you said, what about it?”
“Million!” Wombat screamed.
“Shut up!” Chriss cried back, drooping to the ground.
“But, but, did you withdraw it?” Eager to coax the information out of him.
“All, they can't take it back, it's mine, right. Right?” He whimpered, falling to his knees again.
Then it all went black. It was a curious blackness, painful, sudden and ... from the back of his head.
A fresh morning breeze caught itself down the small alley, rustling nothing but a small mans drying hair. For the first time in weeks, the clouds and building apparel above had broken, opening the ground to the weak sun at it's hight. A weak shaft of light, an irregular square of heat, found it's way onto the Chriss's cheek.
He stirred, being woken by a morning of unusual clarity. Chriss yawned deeply as he sat up, wondering how he'd slept so long. Shaking himself off he tried to rub his eyes, but a fleshy lump just racked across his face.
“Oh, you little sod.”
He managed to scrabble, one hand and one stumped, to his feed to stare at his surgically amputated hand. Leaning against the wall of his alley he took stock.
Wombat had made off with his chip, which just happened to be his hand! It just so happened to have six hundred million credit and all of his personal information stored on it. The positive being it couldn't be used without the rest of the meat behind it, in theory.
He sighed, deeply. What hassle, he thought.
Wombat hadn't left him for dead, this was a professional job. Had he just been set-up? Was this all planned. Surely he'd have been killed if that was the case. Did Wombat just call an ambulance when he'd done with the butchering?
“Well, you're not as good you once where mate.” Chriss said to himself with a smile, fumbling with his good hand in a hidden pocket of his coat for a PDA.
It was a disposable PDA, dirty and scratched, with a crude battery pack jury rigged with duct taped to the back. It had obviously been thrown away a long time ago, but, with the right knowledge, it's better then a notepad. More importantly though, on the back, engraved crudely by a blunt knife was the word 'Wombat'.
“Whatchya'want?” A heavy voice crocked through the grate in the door.
“I am here to see McLain.” Chriss replied clearly. 'Hmm, no queue,' he though, 'that's a good sign.'
Several bolts opened on the heavy, rusted door and he was allowed through.
The only information of use he found in Wombats PDA was that he currently had a static contact number, surprising for someone like him. What wasn't surprising was that it was the number to a hidden bar a little deeper into the city. It had been built out of demolished walls between the supporting foundations of several giant skyscrapering spires, and faced to look no more out of place then any degraded back alley.
Inside, it was only less run down than most clubs since it lacked the extra population of passing traffic. There where several dance floors, bars and chill out areas all catering to different tastes in music, fetish and drug. One of the main attractions of the place was the hostel on the upper level, if it could be called it. It was an giant, open, sleeping area available to all willing to risk both their possessions and limbs for a soft place to lie.
The place was called McLain's, and was a favoured haunt of all those in the know avoiding anything.
Chriss glanced up, the man behind the door looked down at him from his lofty height.
“Jus' a bearable.” Chriss said opening his jacket. The man made a mental note and allowed him through.
It had been over a year since he had been here last, with Wombat actually. Just after one of their old infamous jobs. They used to practically live out of this place, and not the communal sleeping area above. Those where the days.
Took only a minute of walking through the poorly lit corridors before he reached their old bar, and, at the end, in his old stool, Wombat sat drinking alone.
“Waaaah. Jus like 'at!” He wailed. Wombat was always a loud drunk. “Slunk. Splat. Brok!”
The bar tender stood in front of him, nodding solemnly and keeping him topped up. Chriss paused to listen a second, Wombat didn't seem to have anything on him, certainly not anything a sensible person would keep a severed hand in. That may be a bad sign either way.
“I jussat, lik-'at. I ku'it-owf, all fo da-ol'-man!” He slurred, banging his shot glass on the table. “'Ow cun some'un do-at tu affwiend.”
“You can have this back,” Chriss said sternly, slamming the PDA on the bar, “now gimme me bloody hand back.” Wombat rolled his head slowly around his limp neck. His eyes failed to focus on Chriss, or indeed anything for a moment, but then it clicked and he carried on in slurred tones.
“Iss yoou. Bu' owsed me, yoo,” he swallowed hard, “mees?” He waved his drink around between him and Chriss, bracing his hand from his elbow on the alcohol stained bar.
Chriss knocked his drink out of his hand, and caught him across the face with the back of his hand on the return.
“Where is my sodding hand!” He demanded, very deliberately. Wombat was visibly shaken, and tried to take a second to compose himself, no one could tell if he had succeeded or not.
“'Ow ned yoou, er, fan'ee?” He attempted, equally as deliberately.
“Because,” Chriss stated simply, trying not to raise his voice, “this is the same fraggin' place you came after you pawned off my fucking good boots!”
Wombat considered this a moment, “'at, err, tha' wassen't wa-sit, yor 'ands.”
The bartender backed off, leaving the only person in the city who could understand a Drunken wombat to it.
“No, that was me boots, now it's my hand.”
“I'a, I'a di'unt shut no 'ans uff.”
“I didn't say you did tha'. I wanna know where it is?”
“Yor boo's, ya good-uns wa, 'eh wheer wit' Xene'a'.”
“No, not my boots, my hand. My Sodding hand!”
“Dunechawan'yeboozbakmei'un?” The words seemed to miss his tongue on the way out, as he tried to stand up, bracing himself off a reluctant Chriss.
“Come on, you've 'ad enough mate.” Chriss tried to steer him away from the bar, without an extra hand he was less then able and Wombat was less than willing.
“Uor booz dun getta'ell me wassan', no!” Cried Wombat, crumpling on top of Chriss.
They both ended up in a pile on the floor, but by now they'd attracted some attention from one of the many bouncers littering the floors.
“Get up, you two.”
“Can you give me a 'and with him?” Said Chriss waving his stump with a forced smile.
A bouncer loomed over them both for a moment, possibly larger them them both put together. She wore a tightly ringed chain mail dress, with what could have been black cling film underneath.
“Sure, luv.” She said calmly, taking Wombat with one hand by the scruff of the neck and raising him to his unsteady feet. Chriss wedged himself underneath one of his armpits, and the bouncer clamped a hand onto the other shoulder.
“Dumpin' him in the Hostel?” She asked.
“Tis the plan.”
“Sorry 'bout this guy.”
“Chee'ash 'bout noffinai'ellsya.”
“Not your fault, guys been at it all day.”
“All day? Bugger, must'ave been out longer then I thought.”
“'Es been drowning his sorrows the entire time, kept on about stealin' some poor bastards hand.”
“Oh, serves the sod right.” Chriss said, waving his stump out as he adjusted his grip.
“Crap, we guessed he was just off his face.”
Chriss shook his head.
“Wan' us to sort him out?”
“Nah, I'll get it in the mornin'.”
“Yooos, yur all, purrty, an, pursty an, stodgy yoo awe'.”
They ignored him, trying to manoeuvre him up a narrow flight of steps.
“What? He just stole your hand?”
“Yeah, I wanna know how he stunned me, felt like he damn near knocked me head off. But no bruises.”
“An' you're not mad?”
“Nah, he stole me good boots few years back, I got 'em back eventually.”
She paused, “oh, erm, good to hear.”
Chriss smiled a resigned grin back.
“Where do you want him?”
“Probably best to 'ave him away from the rest of the guys. 'Ow about in the corner with the most vent's. You can guess what he'll be like in the mornin'.”
“Yeah, you'll want to be tipping well when you leave.”
“Dun worry, once I get me hand back I'll be sure to.”
“Hahah, good luck to you.”
“Yeah, thanks. I have a feeling I'll need it.”
He lay his friend down on a mattress in a corner of the large, darkened room. Of all the drunkards in the room Wombat looked to be in the worst state, but was now the quietest, luckily. He thought it best to pose him so he wouldn't choke on his own tongue, as tempting as it was.
Chriss watched Wombat sleep for a while with a nostalgic smile, thinking to himself, before settling down in the dim light himself.