Kryos: Chapter 12

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Dark clouds massed on the horizon as Ryard Vancing strode the eatery district’s vacated streets, soma sotted by the ruination spawned since his last sojourn. The faint, familiar hum of the main CAV-way’s cargo, crisply audible in the absence of the jostling murmuration of variegated tongues, made the scene disquietingly surreal. The wide, pedestrian thoroughfare was trash strewn; the windows of all surrounding shops, cracked and shattered; the walls, marred by vulgar graffiti; the gentle breeze, bearing the scent of char and sick. A few cheap-garbed itinerants milled about the lane, seemingly perplexed by their selfsame presence; aecerites and southers, federates and those whose origins escaped Vancing’s ken. Several minutes on, a young woman ran up on the sidewalk, several yards before Ryard, and removed a small spray can from her coat and began dousing the wall; visage crooking with prideful cruelty.

“Hey,” Ryard called out, increasing his pace and advancing toward the vandal.

The woman’s face kinked with fright, whereafter she dashed down the street, vanishing into a blighted alley between two dilapidated shops. Ryard halted and observed the vandal’s scrawl: “KSRU Kills.”

“What were you trying to do to her?”

The brisk male voice prompted Ryard to turn with confusion to behold three middle-aged men progressing toward him from behind a slow-moving detachment of cargo drones that crawled insouciantly across the center of the spacious pedestrian lane.

Ryard gestured to the defacement. “She was marking up the wall.”

“You got a problem with that?”

“Don’t you?”

The men stopped five feet from Vancing, eyes wary, jaws tense.

“Maybe I don’t.”

“Alright.”

Ryard turned his back to the men and removed a cloth from his pocket and began to scrub the wall. As Ryard cleared off the ‘C’ from the cacograph, the speaker, a pudgy man with a high hairline and a round, crinkled face, took in the Vilar Corp logo on Ryard’s jacket with choler and stepped forward.

“Think you’d better leave, company man.”

“Will, soon as I’m done.”

“I said clear off.”

Ryard paused and stared at the man over his coat collar.

“This is public property.”

“Yeah. And I’m the public.”

“Wager you’d be singing a different tune if this was your house.”

The man spat at Ryard’s feet. The CAV-Keep casually observed the effluvia and returned to his work.

“Come on, Emmett,” a short, reedy member of the trio appealed softly, “Its not worth it. Let’s go.”

Emmett grimaced and turned abruptly, muttering “whatever” before leaving off, followed closely by his confederates. Ryard watched them tread to the south and continued scouring the wall until every trace of lettering was erased, then folded his cloth, pocketed it and continued along the pedestrian lane as clement rain descended from darkling haze.

When he arrived at the Wyntwurth Automat he sighed and readjusted his collar against the chill downpour. The establishment lay ransacked and boarded, ringed by guard drones of curious, nonstandard extraction.

“Vacate the premises,” the closest of the brassy machines trilled, posturing aggressively toward the entrant. “You have one minute to comply.”

Ryard retreated to the side of the curb, brows knitting with apprehension, ire and dissapointment.

“Appears we’ll have to find a new place to lunch,” a familiar husky voice intoned from behind the wayward CAV-keep. Ryard spun and beheld a old man, elegantly garbed and hairless, save his thin twiggish brows, who sat upon the back of an automated cabriolet at the side of the ill-populated thoroughfare which bordered the cloistered restaurant.

“Salutations, Mr. Salis.”

The old man smiled warmly.

“Hop in, Mr. Vancing. I know a good place.”

Ryard did as he was bid and sat opposite the elderly executive, whereafter the machine’s opaque, oblong canopy secured around them like the mesogleaic bell of a massive sea jelly. After the canopy was secured the craft lumbered forward.

“Isn’t it unwise, Sir? Traveling around by yourself,” Ryard gestured through the diaphanous interior, “Especially in the middle of all of this.”

“I never travel alone.”

Ryard looked over Salis’ shoulder and spied another cabriolet following them. Inside, a lone passenger, barely visible due the distortion of the semi-spherical pane, a dark hat upon his distant head.

“Personal security?”

Salis nodded, “Saif Baumann. Came out of the same class as Acelin Syzr at the academy. Damned shame I even feel I need him. When I entered the district, I saw a frail, old woman, must have been near seventy years old, maybe a little older, walking across the street. Minding her own business. This young fellow, a souther, came up, pushed her over, hard as he could. Didn’t say a word. Doubt he knew her, given the disparity of their dress. Just pushed her over and ran away, laughing.”

“Was she alright?”

Julian Salis nodded grimly, “Bruised. A little shaken. Had Baumann stop and help her to a med-pod. She’ll be fine. I just can’t fathom why someone would do that.”

“You know those new updates Kryos Industries was debuting for free for recently outdated affin mods?”

“I read about it. But I’ve got the latest model, so I didn’t have to bother with it. I was never very tech savvy.”

“Well, about a week ago, I was in my tenement, trying to make a call on my affin mod. But the release for the patch was set back. Everything was running slow. Kept trying it. Still nothing. All of a sudden, I pulled my module off my wrist, overwhelmed with the desire to throw it across the room.”

The old man nodded and slowly smiled, “But you didn’t,” Salis motioned casually to the outdated module that adorned Ryard’s left wrist, “I’d wager that’s why Kryos had Straker attempt to recruit you.”

“Maybe. I haven’t given them an answer yet.”

“I didn’t figure you had. Which is why I wanted to meet with you,” Ryard straightened, listening attentively, “Whatever you decide, know that you have my full support, as does the KSRU.”

“I appreciate that, Sir. But the substation-“

Salis lifted a hand for silence, “I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to worry about being fired or having your benefits cut, and, more importantly, because the changes we’re seeing,” he nodded out the enclosure to the ravaged exterior of a charging station, “All of this, is bigger than the substation, bigger than the whole line, bigger than Vilar Corp. This vicious revolutionary mood didn’t suddenly just sweep the city, Mr. Vancing, its been building for a long, long time. This is merely its most recent and intense expression. I’ve lived through one revolution. I’ve no desire to see another.”

Ryard pocketed his hands to resist the urge to wring them together in nervous agitation.

“You’re one of the few who understands what its like.”

“What what is like, Sir?”

“To meet those desirous of your eradication.”

Ryard looked out the window.

“Forgive me, I know you don’t like talking about it.”

“Its fine,” Ryard observed the bedraggled pedestrians upon the garbage spackled thoroughfare, who glared at the cab with feral and forthright disdain, “I’m not as sensitive as many think.”

“I don’t believe that for a moment. That’s why Baumann or Syzr or I or even Straker couldn’t hope to do what Kryos expects of you.”

“And you? What do you expect of me, Sir?”

“I expect you’ll do what you know to be right.”

Ryard returned his attention to the window where a mother and daughter walked, hand in hand, beneath the high canopy of a hodgepodge market stall, hastily constructed to accomadate a merchant whose store had been razed.

He wondered at the absence of the father.

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