The rain was unapologetic as it pounded down on him. It had at least washed away a good deal of the dirt and mud he had woken up with. His dreadlocks hung about him like limp, damp tea towels. The rain ran down his bare chest, even his jacket doing little to prevent his soaking.
Neon City, here I come.
Tyler took a chance, doing his best to hide his pronounced limp. He swore at his jacket, as he tried to get it to stay blood red, while digging around in one of its many pockets. He pulled out one of the red bandannas and knotted it up about his neck. Paranoia and fear made him want to pull it up over his face, hide himself, but he was standing out more as it was. His injuries looked more staunch with the gang pretense.
Tyler pretended for a living, but this at least was mostly truth. He just hoped that he didn’t run into any Blues on the way out. He was probably a foreigner, but Erikson had obviously done his homework. The Blues weren’t as much as a threat as they used to be.
Keep your head down. Stop, drop and roll.
The rain felt like it was doing its part, along with his wounded body. It dragged down heavy on his waterlogged dreadlocks. Tyler felt the pain of every step somewhere in his side. He didn’t know enough about his body, not those parts. Could have been a cracked rib or two, could be something punctured inside, bleeding blood into his guts. Then he’d be pissing and shitting blood until he could get to point 60.
Tyler stayed on the side streets, about himself enough to work out roughly where he was. He passed a pack of young Reds who eyed him suspiciously for a moment. Tyler felt his gut churn. Even among the Reds there were posses who warred against others of the same color. It was a matter of where you came from, as much as the color you wore. Tyler gambled that the colors would keep sharks from swarming the injured, mask the horrible pains inside.
One huge guy, Tongan Tyler thought, stared him down as he approached. Tyler limped slow, gave an ups of his chin as he passed. If he was jumped, that would be it. Tyler decided not to fight that if it came. He noticed they wore their rags slung about the neck like him. They all passed like ships.
Tyler was too focussed on point 60 to seek help anywhere else. He hiked up his long, black denim shorts. He realized how close the look of staunch came to unbearable pain. His feet hit against the cracked sidewalk, as the rain bounced back up off it.
Tyler kept his eyes on the strange glow that the city gave off ahead. Even in overcast day, Neon City was living up to its name. Where he needed to go was getting closer with every step. All he had to do was focus on that, and it would keep the pain at bay. All he had to do was put one foot in front of the other, and keep focussed on the Agency.
If you’d just fuckin’ got in that car, then it would all be sweet. You wouldn’t be walking dead right now.
Tyler wondered about what life was like for Erikson. Times like this is made it real hard to remember why he stuck with the Agency. He’d always assumed that working for them would be something like the fantasies that came into his mind when he thought about the corps and suits. The truth recalled that word that Erikson had used to describe his work with the Agency.
Playing baby spy in small groups here and there. Pushing. Talking. Listening. Insinuating. And for the most part, when his wetware was working, piping it all back to Mission Control. Then late at night, laying up in someones house, friend or foe, maybe caught in the act of jacking off, Manly would appear like an apparition and tell him of his next task.
This is what you fuckin’ live for. Same reason you broke out of Mount Eden.
And it was true.
The fucking thrills.
Still the voice of doubt. Tyler heard it as he passed through the streets, lined with buildings slightly less and less shitty than the previous. He weathered the rain and passing cars, smelling the stink of ozone from the cars above. Just one of millions. Millions, but one voice in his head, pushing the doubt.
You don’t have any fuckin’ wetware, n00b. You never did. You were born in South Sector.
‘Then how do you explain, Mr Prim-and-proper Suit?’ he countered, and the voice in his mind, doubting and cold, slipped back under the rock that it crawled from. This round went to the status quo.
Gotta be a reason he put himself through blocks and blocks of pain, dragging himself step after step. Tyler thought maybe he had broken something in his leg now, or maybe he had just been limping so long that it seemed like he had. Had to be a reason.
All for the thrills.
No one can keep him down. The same scrawny fuck that had slipped out of Mount Eden, and escaped enough Blues in his past. They’d wanted to rape him, and worse beyond for the things he’d done. Tyler had never had to fast talk himself out of that shit. Just dance and skip and use his body. Paklour himself through doors and windows like the whole world was his jungle gym.
And what if this time you fucked it up finally? What if you put a rib through your lung? Maybe somethin’s gone in through your stomach, and your bleedin’ out.
Tyler felt hot, and could tell it from more than just how his face was burning up. His jacket was working overtime, actually whirring with the effort to cool his strong little frame. Even though it wasn’t done up, couldn’t since he had broken the zip and lost a few of the buttons. He paused to puke up his guts, half expecting to see it all red in the gutter where he had paused.
Gonna take a fuckin’ angel to get you out of this one, buddy. You’ve busted every rib in your left side. Just you wait till you take a crap. You’ll be squirtin’ red, just like your gang colors. Blood in, blood out.
You fuckin’ fake. You fuckin’ delusional fake.
Point 60, just ahead. He thought. He was starting to see some of the areas namesake as he walked along the streets, now filled with the lunch crowd. Sizemic. Hellion. Lady Jades. Everything was starting to glow and blink and throb in every neon shade of the rainbow. Tyler wondered whether in his fevered state he had found himself a blunt and toked up on the way to pass the pain. A quick check of his jacket found nothing of the sort. If he had, it was gone.
Neon City was nice enough that being a ghost was something you could only just get away with. You still couldn’t buy anything, but at least the securidrones wouldn’t start screaming and mobbing you, snapping shots and sending on pictures to the Blacks and Whites. Tyler thought how the district had tried again last year to convince the City Fathers to separate its designation from South Sector.
‘I made it,’ he thought, as he pushed out of the stream of foot traffic. Black dusters and mirror shades in the day. Shiny against the rain. ‘I fuckin’ made it. One more block’.
Tyler kept walking, cutting through a back alley that he knew personally would take him through a short cut. He passed the noodle house he sometimes went to on late nights. A hole-in-the-wall called the Black Moon. Mr Lee wasn’t working there right now, and he didn’t recognize the girl up high behind the counter.
The alley smelt of ash and death.
Wait for it.
Tyler let out a heaved, painful sigh of relief, feeling his step get quicker. He’d have to stay alert, but the Agency would do the rest. They’d probably spot him quickly enough, even while he was ghost. They had his description. Then it would just be a few moments before he was laid out in a van, getting fixed up right smart.
You crazy if you think this is all real, fuckin’ n00b.
Tyler stared up at point 60 from across the road. The great monolithic office block that was probably turn of the century in it’s brick facade and stone gargoyles. The smoke rose up from it, like lazy late nights getting high. The brick of it stood out even more now, charred black, a skeleton of what remained. The appliances were still on the scene, needlessly so, given how the weather was dampening down the whole scene.
Point 60 was up in smoke. It wasn’t lost on Tyler, as he felt his gut sink, that by Agency standards this hole area was too hot. Too hot for extraction. Too hot for help.
Looks like you lucked out big time, n00b. Now where you gonna go?
Tyler knew he would need an angel to get him out of this shit.