A woman’s cry cut the air.
Acelin Syzr stiffened and strode quickly down the winding back-alley toward the origin of the shriek. His armored bulk clacked dully, gleaming vermeil beneath the muted sunbeams which filtered from the high, jagged spires that rose like defiant brands towards a roiling and ominous sky. The corridor formed by the dilapidated apartments was filthy, strewn with the detritus of past itinerants: condoms, bottles, torn clothing and adhesive drug patches; dregs of the newest narcotics craze. A long-haired junkie shivered against the early morning chill and loosed saliva with a ragged cough. Twenty feet on, a dead feline lay, foam spilling about its distended, yellow jaws, ants piling around its exposed innards. Small cuts of cat carried out and down into the shuttering dark. Syzr surveyed the dross and continued on, quickening his pace as another scream rang out from the depths of the concrete tomb. The sonic thread ended in a ratty blind, before which the alley diverged left and right. Three men stood about a middle-aged woman who lay upon the ground, bleeding from her lip, shirt torn at the collar. Wealthy – judging from her garb. Her pert, pale face, contorted with disgust and horror. Syzr watched the drama from behind the cover of a high door stoop which, given its dominion over the passage, had been built prior to the construction of the adjacent building. The largest of the muggers leered at the woman and drew a razor from his belt.
“Shoulda known better than to walk alone.”
“Rich cunt,” the shortest of the trio spat.
The last member of the group, a fat, balding man with a pockmarked and piggish face, chortled and lumbered threateningly toward the woman as she scurried up against the alley’s blind. As Syzr readied himself to intervene, a Consortium assurance drone floated down to the scene from the rooftops, synthetic voice clacking, robotic and pleasant.
“Please reconsider your actions, citizens. There is no need for violence.”
Momentarily, the muggers froze and tensed, eyes going wide, mouths parting. However, when it became clear the drone’s sole function was rhetorical dissuasion, they laughed and smashed it. The aerial machine sputtered on the ground, frantically looping dialogue.
“There is no need for violence. Thereisnoneedforviolence. There-“
As the triad cackled and returned their attentions to the bleeding woman, Syzr cantered from around the stoop and stood the center of the avenue, his battered onyx face-plate melding with shadow, his voice crepitating mechanically through the opaque polymer veil.
“Depart the woman.”
The trio whirled, eyes wide, weapons glinting in the gloam.
“Who the fuck are you?” the fat man hissed, balling his fists.
The tall man surveyed the intruder’s visor with perplexity and sneered, “This ain’t a costume party, pal.”
“Depart the woman or depart this life.”
The tall mugger grinned malevolently and jabbed the air with his shiv, “You looking to die, tough guy?”
The full-helmed man said nothing and took a step forward. The fat man and the short man looked to the shiv-wielder for guidance; he gestured with the blade toward the interloper.
“The latter, then,” Syzr declared evenly.
The short man produced a roller chain from his belt and rushed forward, flailing metal. Syzr maintained his position and let the chain drive strike him across his armored left shoulder, whereafter recoil brought the slender piece of machinery up into the assailant’s face. The short man screamed and clutched rubies at his eye. Syzr kicked the man in the gut and slammed a fist into his trachea. As his companion dropped to the ground, vainly sucking air, the fat man rushed in, grunting with rage, and caught Syzr about the mid-section, attempting a tackle, but recieved an elbow to the back of his neck and ragdolled. Syzr kicked the man in the face until he stilled permanently, then picked up the chain drive and turned to the leader, whose face tinctured with terror and incredulity.
The tall man bolted and caught the weight of the chain drive to the back of his right knee, stumbling to the ground, cursing as Syzr fell upon him. Before Syzr could land a critical blow, the tall mugger brought his hands up around his head, curling his body into his attacker, and, with considerable effort, shucked the man free of his body. The thief rolled and picked up his shiv, taking several swipes in Syzr’s direction – feints. Syzr wasn’t concerned with getting sliced, his armor could take it. He backed up, confident, coiled, shoulders rolling. Form fluid and controlled. The mugger grabbed a empty bottle off the ground, flew forth and stuck his foe in the side, feeling the armor give, he grinned and brought the glass down into Syzr’s head, shattering the vessel and scuffing the helm. Syzr took the blows with a grunt of surprise and pain and caught the mugger’s left hand in which he hefted the neck of the broken bottle and squeezed with all his strength. The mugger loosed a howl of agony as the remnant of the bottle fractured red ribbons to hand. Syzr drew the man’s dactyls to palm and smashed them against his face, once, twice and then headbutted the reaver to the ground.
Squealing and cupping his bleeding visage, the mugger fled.
Syzr gave pursuit, but quickly stopped as he noticed red rivulets running from his side.
His eyes narrowed beneath the abraded, monochrome helm as he watched the criminal vanish down the leftern alley.
He walked stiffly and slowly back to the disheveled woman, clutching his leaking abdomen, wondering how a common criminal had been able to acquire a weapon capable of piercing sychitin.
“You alright, ma’am?”
She shrunk back from the carnage-stained man, shuddering.
“Are you alright?”
She nodded, tears in her eyes, quivers in her lips.
Syzr extended a plated hand and, after a moment of hesitation, the woman took it as the drone continued its mantra.