She had fifteen minutes to get home before the Serafim took to the streets. Peering out the window, Davey swiped her ID card, hopping in agitation at the three second delay in the building's electronic mechanism. She did not want to be caught on the street by the red-masked Serafs; government issue goons keeping citizens in check.
Identity approved and work-hours logged, she hurried onto the pavement. The wind was cold, whipping her braids across her face. With a shiver, she dodged the last of the cars buzzing along the street and entered the network of alleys leading her down-town.
As glass topped corporate towers gave way to crumbling apartment blocks, Davey's hand slipped into the pocket of her coat, her fingers gripping the can of pepper spray. Atlantis was disintegrating. The city was rotten, its citizens divided into those with money and power, and those desperate to eke out a living in the effluvial haze.
The starving vagrant sluiced from the fog of stinking cess like a ghost. "Hold your fire, bleachling. I have speak."
Boz was always want want want, a shade of filth and hunger whose begging repulsed her, but he had an ear for the street and his knowledge of the city's underbelly had saved her life on more than one occasion.
Davey tossed a mermaid scale into the sludge. "Today, but not again. Do you understand?"
"I understand perfectly." The wretch grinned and dragged himself over to her feet, eyes fixed on the glow of her white skin. "Tomorrow, the Serafim will not come."
Davey's neck dropped — a reflex stoop she thought she'd fixed. "What? What the fuck are you talking about?"
"Stay indoors," Boz continued, his voice a gurgle of spittle. "Stay high. Tenth floor. Get supplies."
Davey threw back her shoulders, fixed him with a status glare. "The Serafim always come. Why should tomorrow be different?"
"Tomorrow, Atlantis falls." Head bowed low from a spasm of servitude, Boz slithered back into the shadows. Davey cursed. To bid him return would court guilt even she couldn't afford to cover.
In the sludge at her feet, the mermaid scale glistened in the dim light from the overhead towers. With the latest trades, this was food for a month, drugs for a day, sex with some desperate kid. The Boz she knew would have snatched it as it fell if he could.
But this was not the Boz she knew.
She pulled her coat tight around her generous curves and sped on through the shanty sprawl as the wind, ferocious now, tore at all hope of shelter rooftop by rooftop.
Nothing had been the same since Reagan took office.
Opening: Suzanne van Rooyen.....Continuation: Whirlochre.....Punchline: Bill