For the Terribleminds flash fiction challenge Sub-Genre Tango Part II, here’s a mix of cyberpunk and sword & sorcery.
“Man, I don’t know about this. We’re static if we get caught.”
Van looked over his shoulder at Anton. The shorter youth’s outburst had been no louder than a hiss, but it sounded a bullhorn at this hour. It was after curfew and the Street Sweepers would be on patrol, ready to stasis-bolt anybody wandering the city. If you were really lucky, you’d awaken in a cozy cell with no lights and a bucket in the corner. Anton had been there before, one of the reasons he was so nervous.
“We won’t.” Van grabbed Anton to yank him close. “Not if you keep your taco-hole shut.”
Anton nodded, nearly dislodging the rig attached to his temples. He’d been locked up before due to his propensity for jacking into civil government relays through innocent public kiosks. He was brilliant, but about as calm as a ferret high on sugar and amphetamines. Van brushed dark hair out of his vision and held a finger to his lips.
Anton obeyed, stepping closer to Van in the shadows of the alley. A Street Sweeper hummed softly as it floated by, held aloft on its hover-fans, the men manning the cannons inscrutable behind their dark helmets. To serve and protect was emblazoned on the vehicle. Van waited until it turned the corner to pull Anton back into the street with him.
“Look. I know those bastards scare you. They give me bad tingles, too. But you want to get Sarah out, right?”
“More than anything. I know I was in a bad place, but hers is even worse.” Anton blinked. “Are you sure this is going to work?”
Van shook his head. “Nope. But we’ve already tried remote unlocks and direct runs on their bulwark servers. We gotta go seriously old-school to get in there.”
Anton and Van resumed their quiet walk down the street, on the lookout for Street Sweepers or night cops on foot. Every time he looked south, Van saw the Grand Citadel. It had started life as just another skyscraper. Now the glass gave way around the 50th floor to bright white marble, reaching up to spires and wind-snapped banners. The whole thing had a glow around it, making it even harder to see the stars. The media pundits loved to talk about its warmth and promise of peace, but Van knew the glow was as cold as the corridors in its sub-basements.
“We gotta get her out of there, man.”
“We will.” Anton managed a smile. Van put an arm around Anton’s shoulders and kept him closer as they walked. Finally, after another couple close calls with Sweepers, they came to the address Van had written down.
Anton wiped his nose on his sleeve. “Don’t look like much.”
The row of brownstones were all run down. The one they’d stopped at had boarded-up windows, the first floor featuring bars on top of the boards. The box next to the front door looked like it hadn’t been touched in about a century. There was only one name on it, barely legible: Crystal.
Van exchanged a look with Anton and pushed the button. A burst of static made both youths cringe.
“It’s after curfew, you fool! What in the Hells do you want?”
The voice sounded shrill, at war with the static. Van cleared his throat.
“We’ve come to see Crystal.”
“Oh! Come to point and laugh at the witch, have you? Piss off. Readings happen during normal business hours. And no, I don’t care that my reading lead you to ruin, you‘re the one who interpreted the cards.”
Anton glanced around the street in wide-eyed terror. Van took a deep breath.
“We’re not here about a reading. We’re here about a rescue.”
“I beg your pardon, young man?”
“My sister is held by the Citadel as one of their workers. We need to get her out.”
“Van…” Anton tugged Van’s jacket. Feeling the pull on the leather, Van looked over his shoulder. A Street Sweeper swung into view.
The door clicked open. Van pushed Anton inside, reaching under his jacket for his gun. It was an old autoloader, a crime in and of itself since all non-Citadel arms were heavily regulated. Van aimed at the door.
“She’s on the third floor. Keep moving.”
Anton scrambled up the steps, Van close behind, as the door came open. The night cops were carrying man-portable stasis rifles, shouting for them to stop. Van fired a couple rounds to keep the cops’ heads down and turned to follow Anton. They made it to the stairs outside the door to the third floor space before the cops opened fire.
Van’s hand went numb and the gun fell from his fingers. It was a glancing shot but it’d deprived them of their defense. Anton was putting his hands up when the third floor door came open.
Standing in it was a woman as tall as Van, but full-bodied where he was gangly. Ringlets of red hair fell around her face and blue eyes blazed with fury. A silver sword was in her hand and she pointed it at the boys.
They did. Lightning snapped through the air over their heads and caught the lead cop in the chest, knocking him and his friends down the stairs. Anton scrambled inside, and the woman grabbed Van to pull him past the threshold. The door closed.
“Van, is it?” Her voice was far less shrill in person, more like dark velvet. She lifted his chin to get a look at his face. “Not bad for growing up hard on the streets. Is it your sister in there?”
“And my girlfriend.”
She lifted an eyebrow at Anton. “Good for you, then.” She straightened, resting her hands on the pommel of the sword as it rested point-down against the floorboards. “We’re safe for now, boys, but if you want to head back out after the girl, we’ll have to make a deal.”