The night was black and starless. Even the moon dared not sail that darkened sky. But below, New Manzhouli’s neon glow dazzled, cold and bright. Yuxi stood in the in-between. She could be a phoenix rising from electric ashes, or the angel of death descending from the heavens into the City of Dis. Tonight, she would be both.
She stood on the edge of a railless catwalk spanning the tower blocks. Rain fell in thin, elongated drops, down and down, past a blazing pink sign that said abyss, and indeed that’s what this whole stinking, corrupted city was: an abyss. Yuxi was joining that corruption in her own meager attempt to curtail it.
In her hand she clenched the grip of an old Pre-Breakthrough fully automatic conductor pistol. She’d never fired a weapon before.
In the bottomless depths, transports flew by soundlessly on the hyperways, guided by tracks of light, the passengers trusting that they would safely and efficiently reach their destinations as a matter of fact. Soon, the private transport of the Provincial Authority’s CFO would pass directly below Yuxi, just east of the X57/Y355 junction, as it did every Monday evening. His newest mistress—there were many, but none survived for very long—lived on this side of town.
In fact, there was his transport now, just approaching the junction.
She inhaled with focused control, gauged the transporter as it flitted past disordered rows of towers, and, when the timing was just right, leapt.
It would only take about three seconds to fall the 44 meters from the catwalk to the hyperway. She’d top 100 km/h, only halfway to terminal velocity.
Yuxi put the ultimate trust in her newly and illegally implanted neurocell. People couldn’t be trusted at all, but she distrusted her back-room surgeon for all the right reasons: price gouging, territorial business practices, and aggressive self-medicating. These were predictable vices. Besides, she’d made over 100 backup mindfiles—more than half of those while she’d waited on the catwalk—and they seemed to work fine. Yuxi and the CFO would both wake up in new bodies tomorrow, but the act would send a message.
The transport rose to meet her. She held her weapon in both hands now. Yuxi braced her shoulders and fired two dozen kinetic penetrant slugs into the transport’s cab. Then it was above her, rising away. She rolled over and continued to fire at the cab from the underside, though it was speeding away and she mostly missed. Four more seconds passed, and she did in fact reach terminal velocity.
Let’s do this again real soon, she thought, and then reached her inevitable conclusion like a water balloon full of ground beef.
Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page. Image by Tony Skeor, used with permission.