The rain hadn’t let up for the past few days, a heavy drizzle that made the mould patches that clung to the plasticrete walls luminesce as the bacteria ate away at the crap in each drop. With every streetlight broken, it was as close to seeing the stars as Joey would ever get.
Joey pushed between the trash machines at the base of his tower block; huge things that churned away day and night, using more bacteria to convert more junk to something a bit more usable than a sickly green glow. The heat was a welcome relief but the rats spoiled the view somewhat.
This was where Joey kept his most prized possessions. Not in his room that he shared with the Nalay’s because his mother couldn’t make the rent on just one rent chit. Not at his public ed centre where the course material might as well have been stamped with the company logo of Ion Tech. No, Joey kept what little he had behind the last trash engine on the left in the bowels of residency block #24827.
He plucked a small metal tin from a stack of makeshift shelves. The hinges were rusting. The lid had faded so much only the raised impression of whatever design had once been on it remained. Opening it Joey let his fingers touch the small silver medal that rested within.
“Miss you Dad,” he said to himself and the rats.
Joey snapped the lid shut, the noise of the rain and machines vanishing as his heart began to pound in his chest. He tucked the tin away, scrambling to get out of the claustrophobic little nest he’d made. He made it twenty feet into the void between tower blocks when he heard the splashing of running feet behind him.
Oberman, a kid who had obviously eaten more than his fair share of protein paste since birth, moved far too quickly for his size. Joey felt the arm crush his windpipe, watched the world fall backward as the climbing towers rose to fill his vision before crashing to the ground on his back.
“You think you can give me bad ‘ware and then do a runner? Two guys turned to eggs the moment the Protectors opened fire.”
“Buyer… beware,” Joey said, between gulping lungfuls of air down his bruised trachea.
“I’m gonna put you in a hole.”
“Trip, you wanted fast and cheap,” Joey said. “That normally kinda leaves out the third thing: reliable.”
In the blocks, everything existed in a hierarchy. Your food rations went from a green card to a red card, a tube of paste to a roast turkey. Same for entertainment, housing, education. Gangs. Trip, and his lackies, liked to think of themselves as being on the red end of the spectrum. In reality they were a few shades off from green.
“I can find a hundred others like you,” Trip said, pulling an ancient recoiler from his pocket and sliding the action along like he’d seen in the vids. He raised the weapon, sighted, pulled the trigger.
Joey didn’t flinch. His Dad had taught him that. A man has to stand his ground, greet Death in the face and smile. Which was probably a good lesson to learn, because he got to watch as the bullet deflected in mid-flight, it’s path curving, bending, until it sailed right past Joey and into the frontal lobes of Oberman who had taken up residence behind him.
The large oaf didn’t even change expression as he fell.
Three others in Trip’s little gang fell a moment later. Joey could smell the ozone of a high-energy maser. The fallen had angry welts on their foreheads, but Joey knew that internally the water in their brains would have boiled and burst in a microsecond.
Trip took one step forwards, gun still in his hand before stopping abruptly. As he looked down at his chest, the air before him began to shimmer until a form appeared between Trip and Joey. As the form moved aside, Joey watched as Trip, his adversary and financier for so many years, fall to the ground.
The cloaked man turned and focused his gaze on Joey, but Joey was interested only in the insignia that adorned the man’s chest. Three lightning bolts over a crescent-shaped moon.
“Dad?” Joey said at last.
The man’s helmet retracted, the black eye sockets of the helmet’s optics replaced with those of a human. But not his father.
“Joey Deloitte, I presume,” the man said.
Prompt originally posted by A_Nigerian_Warlord on reddit and received 30 upvotes.