A cop in the futuristic city of Paragon deals with crime in the slums.
|Thomas Kyre found himself gazing down on the earth. The silence and darkness of space encompassed him, and yet he was safe from harm. He viewed the surface of the planet as a simple observer. The stars, though light years from the small planet, enveloped the earth in their gentle but brilliant rays. The terrain was a vivid palette of greens and blues, showing him the serenity and purity of its surface. Mountain ranges poked up above the thin layers of cloud cover. This was his home. He was at complete peace watching his beautiful planet from above.
As he floated closer and closer to the earth, he began to notice change in the surface. The once lush, green forests began to turn crimson. The deep, aquatic blue of the seas began to vanish. The skies that were just so peaceful and harmonious now permeated with dark grey smoke and ash. Before his very eyes, in a matter of seconds, the earth had turned into a wasteland. He was powerless, hovering hundreds of miles away. The surface of the once beautiful planet turned to chaos. He could hear thunder crackle in the distance, but the sound drew closer and closer. It eventually filled his ears so that he could barely stand the volume. He tried to scream, but his effort was useless. No sound came out into the depths of space. The earth’s surface bubbled with fire now. The very stars around him seemed to be vanishing, and he was left in complete and total darkness.
Thunder still echoed in his head as Kyre awoke in a cold sweat. He sat up, trying to recall the dream that had so shocked him out of sleep. He remembered floating… being powerless in the midst of total destruction. Kyre ran a hand through his straggly, unkempt brown hair and calmed his breathing. He took a surveying glance around the room. How long had he been asleep? Digging through the piles of clothes, he found his alarm clock. It was only half past 10.
“Great,” he thought to himself, “another sleepless night”. The dreams had been plaguing him for about a week, and he could never remember them in great detail. They all had one thing in common, though. Kyre knew he would not be able to get back to sleep tonight without a little help. He hurriedly grabbed a semi-clean white dress shirt, slid on a pair of dark jeans, and stuffed his pistol into its holster. With a sigh, he headed out of his dark apartment and into the cold city streets. It would be another long night.
When Kyre got outside, the dismal atmosphere almost made him turn back. He had lived on Block C-9 for almost nine months, but it seemed as though the place got worse each time he left his apartment. Most of Paragon City had been modernized when the surrounding towns combined to form the megalopolis, but a few small districts were overlooked as unimportant. It was in these parts where the underbelly of the city was formed. The junkies owned it now, and the dealers owned the junkies. It was their turf, for the most part. The vicious cycle was out of hand, and quickly getting worse.
He wasn’t two blocks from his home when he saw the first one skulking pathetically down a dim alleyway. His greasy hair was patted down on his skull as if it were a helmet. His left arm was wrapped heavily in dirty bandages, probably doing more harm than good, and he wore tattered sweatpants. On his raggedy black shirt was the barely visible insignia of a shield, and around his neck hung an outdated pair of Neurosynth virtual reality goggles. He was clearly out of bursts, the street name given to the small doses of drugs that could be pumped straight into your brain and nerves through the Neurosynth goggles, and he seemed to be struggling to contain his thirst for more. Kyre passed him without making eye contact, if the junkie even noticed him. He could have been too far gone to care about anything going on in the real world.
Kyre passed by six more junkies on his way to the bar, and was even approached by a dealer.
“Psst, guy, looking for a late night fix?” he whispered from his stoop, “I got the good stuff, diamorphine bursts going at only 45 credits a hit, Quaalude bursts at 65. This is the real, good shit, man. You can’t get these prices nowhere else but here.”
This guy was a low-life, but hardly worth flashing his badge at. He was clearly a small time dealer, and it was too late to cause trouble in such a sketchy part of Paragon. Besides, Kyre wasn’t officially on duty until tomorrow morning. He didn’t even warrant him a response, and continued on his way without instigation.
When he reached Le Havre, it was a quarter past eleven. The place was relatively empty, but there were a few of the regulars there drowning their sorrows in bottles and grimy cups.
“What a depressing bunch,” Kyre said aloud after taking his regular seat in the corner. Only a few people actually looked up to see who broke the silence, recognized Kyre, and went back to their drinks.
“Well, I’ll be damned. Back again, Kyre? That’s the third night in a row!” the bartender yelled at the top of his lungs, unsettling half the bar, “And here I am thinking you’ve still got a job!”
“Oh, Dubs,” Kyre chuckled quietly, “you know me better than that . . . besides, for it to be a job I’ve actually got to show up on time once in a while. I would call it more of an elective occupation. Just one that I get paid for.”
Dubaku Scott, or simply “Dubs” to his closest friends, was one of the only people in this city Kyre felt he could trust. He was extremely cheerful (especially by Paragon standards), and also extremely out of shape. His dark brown skin was always glossed with sweat, even in the winter, and his grey hair seemed to never get any whiter. Why, Dubs looked exactly the same as the first day Kyre had met him.
“Yeah, Kyre, you keep counting your blessings. Let’s hope they keep paying for your drinks when they realize you’ve been coming in hung over regularly!” he mused, “The usual, or are you up for a change?”
“Line me up a shot of tequila, it’s been another rough night.” Kyre rubbed his eyes lazily and watched as Dubs filled a shot glass to the brim. This really was the only way he could get to sleep nowadays, but it could definitely have been worse. Dubs slid the glass in front of him and took a seat behind the bar.
“Those damned dreams, still? Hell, even my little granddaughter can get to sleep after her nightmares,” he laughed heartily. Kyre tossed the shot down his throat and nodded for Dubs to fill a second.
“Yeah, well, I’m not exactly dreaming about the boogeyman under my bed. In fact, I can barely remember what happens. All I know is that once I’m up, I’m up until your drinks can put me back down. Besides, you know you enjoy the company. Don’t tell me you actually like any of these downers,” Kyre waved his hand, the gesture directed at the other customers. “Been making friends with some junkies behind my back?” Dubs just laughed, shook his head, and poured Kyre another shot. The two were friends, it was no secret, and in this town a good friend was almost as valuable as the pistol hidden at Kyre’s waist.
On a bench not 5 blocks from Le Havre sat a small, slightly ragged looking young boy. He had no truly discernable features save the bright, piercing blue eyes that stared seemingly into nothing. His hands were dug deep into the pockets of his tattered grey jacket. He sat motionless for a few minutes, his focused gaze unwavering, even when a stranger would pass in front of him. For such a young boy, he gave off an aura of confidence, or even fearlessness, which was comparable to someone who had spent their entire life on the mean streets of Paragon. His gaze was quickly broken when a strange man in a long trench coat approached him rather quickly, his nervous stride echoing loud footsteps down the quiet city street.
“Hey there, uh, Mr. Clark. I was jus-”
“Don’t call me that, please.”
“Of course, of course,” the strange man stuttered, “I’m sorry, so sorry. Bit, right? I forgot,” he corrected himself, “Well, yeah, I was wondering if you got any more of that stuff? You know, those bursts from last time?” Bit, as he was known on the streets, thought it was funny how much respect the junkies showed to an eleven year old boy. He was a dealer and on these streets he was looked upon as a valuable resource indeed, but Bit was not ignorant enough to think that his power meant anything in the face of desperation.
And that’s exactly what this man seemed to be. He was incredibly jittery, his arms shaking with each seemingly forced sentence. The young boy sat, unfazed by the potentially dangerous man standing inches from his face.
“Mr. Harper, you just bought a burst from me about an hour ago. Don’t you remember our conversation?” his response was entirely genuine, as if he spoke with the utmost respect for his elder.
“Yes, yes of course. . . I just need some more for my friends, that’s all. They like what you’ve got. Same price, eh?” Bit sighed. They always ended up the same. This guy was gone. Beyond help. He silently cursed the drugs, cursed himself for selling them. This had not been the life he wanted, but it was all that he had. He hesitantly reached into his inside pocket and revealed a small vial, only about an inch long, glowing light blue. He held out his palm, and Mr. Harper quickly lashed out to grab it. Bit was quicker. His hand was back in his pocket before the drugged out Harper could even react.
“Money first. You know I don’t play games out here, Mr. Harper.”
“Listen, Bit, how long have I been buying off of you? You gotta give me the hookups tonight, just tonight big guy,” Harper begged, “You know I’m good for it, right? You know?” He had a crazed look in his eyes. For the first time that night, Bit was frightened. He may have had a lot of experience on the streets, but he was, after all, just a child. He had seen the way these junkies acted when desperate, and he was positive he didn’t want to be the victim.
“I can’t give you a handout. I’m sorry, Harper, just come back when you have the money. I’ll be here all night,” Bit reasoned.
“Listen, you little prick,” Harper was visibly angry, now, “Give me that burst right now, or you won’t see the sunrise. I’ll make sure of that. Hand it over!” Harper lunged at Bit, but the small boy had been expecting the sluggish junkie’s attack. He lunged off of the bench, pulled out his pocket knife, and jabbed it into Harper’s leg. The man let out a painful scream. Bit was halfway down the block before he turned to see Harper fruitlessly limping after him, cursing loudly. “I’ll get you, Bit, you little fuck! Watch your fucking back, I’ll get you!” The angry screams turned into cries of desperation that Bit could still hear after blocks and blocks of running. When he finally turned down a safe alleyway, he collapsed against the wall. Tears streamed down his young face, and for the first time it was completely clear that he was a child. No matter how people perceived him, he couldn’t lose the innocence that he carried. Bit fell asleep down the alley, but the very junkies who kept him alive stalked him through the shadows in his nightmares.
Kyre woke up on the floor of his apartment. It was morning; at least that’s what his clock said. Outside, the heavy cloud cover and grim atmosphere could have passed for late evening. His head was killing him, and his vision was still a bit glazed.
“So I guess Dubs’ stuff did the trick,” he said aloud, “my head feels like a bag of lead.” He willed himself to his feet and staggered into the bathroom. A frightening reflection greeted him in the mirror. His eyes were shadowed by dark circles, and his usually clean shaven face was covered in dark bristles. Kyre hastily shaved and matted down his frazzled brown hair. It took him less than 10 minutes to get ready. Thankfully, he was used to this sort of mad dash in the mornings. He was in his uniform and out the door on time, thinking only of the hangover he had so eagerly earned the night before. The pain was elevated even further when he left his room.
“Aiya!” squealed a high pitched voice with a heavy Chinese accent, “Mister Kyre, you running so late again?” He groaned and put on his most cheerful expression.
“Good morning, Mrs. Jiang. Yeah, I’m extremely late, so I’ve really got to-“
“You will join me for tea soon, yes? Chinese green tea is good for the mind and body. You look like you need some now, yes? You tired, this help!”
“No, no thank you,” he began to shuffle past her, “definitely some other time, though.” Kyre broke into a sprint to escape the woman. Every morning was the same thing. When he reached the bottom floor, he could still hear her rambling. She had switched to Chinese in his absence.