The city sprawled beneath me, a sprawling labyrinth of light against the pitch-black sky. The neon signs cast colorful reflections on the perpetual smog, but it wasn’t enough to hide the rot eating away at the core of humanity’s last bastion.
My legs dangled over the side of a colossal metal structure, the wind pushing against me, daring me to let go. But for now? I sat on the edge, watching the world below. As far back as I could remember, humans were always fascinated by flight. By escaping the confines of their personal heavens and hells. And now? They’d built flying cars, machines of incredible speed and agility—though it was an irony of sorts that the higher we climbed, the more we tried to escape, the further away we got from our humanity.
I couldn’t escape my past. But I could run from it. My fingers absentmindedly traced the outline of the knife in my pocket, its cold metal a familiar comfort when everything else seemed so uncertain.
“Hey, Alkis!” a voice called out from behind me, shattering my reverie. I heard Dex’s approaching footsteps grinding against the metal catwalk I’d claimed as my temporary sanctuary. The faint smell of motor oil and gasoline filled my nostrils moments before his boots came into view.
His gaze followed mine for a few seconds as he stared at the traffic patterns below before smirking. “Found another one of your quiet spots up here, huh?”
I shrugged. “It’s peaceful.”
Dex chuckled as he sat down beside me, the tingles in my arm telling me his cybernetic limb was doing that thing where it gave off static electricity again. He caught my amused expression and sighed. “Still haven’t figured out why it does that. Anyway, you know why I’m here. We got a job.”
“Do we?” I raised an eyebrow, disinterestedly watching a neon-lit flying car whiz by, its exhaust fumes blending with the smog of the city.
His grin turned into a full-blown smirk as he passed me a datapad. “Oh, we do. And not just any job – this one’s got a hell of a payday.”
I accepted the datapad and brought it up to my face, scanning through the contents. A simple infiltration and extraction—sneak into a compound, pick up some corporate bigwig’s kid, and get out. No collateral damage, no witnesses.
But there was something about the mission that caught my attention. The markings on the bottom of the document, the little insignia in the corner. I’d seen it before, but I couldn’t place where exactly. Instead of getting lost in those thoughts, I let them slip away to focus on the task at hand.
I handed the datapad back to Dex. “Alright, let’s do it.”
He grinned and stood up, extending a hand to help me to my feet. I let his metal fingers wrap around my wrist as he pulled me up, and we shared a look that had become an unspoken agreement between us over the years.
Our flying car glided through the city effortlessly. I kept one hand on the wheel while the other idly traced over that knife once more—always there, always waiting to do its work when necessary.
The compound loomed ahead of us, lit by LEDs and imposing spotlights that felt more like a warning than anything else. With Dex as my eyes in the sky, hacking into security systems and providing a play-by-play of our surroundings, we slipped in through an entrance he’d taken control of.
My heart pounded in my chest as I raced through the eerily quiet halls, feeling like every step I took would end with sirens blaring through the building. As I reached the young woman’s room, I noticed that same insignia from the datapad engraved on her door.
When she opened it, I saw her eyes widen with recognition, and though I didn’t know who she was, she seemed to know who I was. It didn’t matter—questions were for later. Right now, we had a job to get done.
As we made our escape in our trusty flying car, that sneaking suspicion that had been nagging at me all night finally clicked into place. I remembered the insignia – it had been my father’s company, a corporation whose name had been tarnished and forgotten. They had managed to rebuild, and now they had sought me out.
“What’s the matter, Alkis?” Dex asked, a hint of concern in his voice. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
I shook my head slowly, a smile creeping across my face despite myself. “No, Dex… I think I just found one.”
As our flying car soared through the city, I wondered whether this was merely another job or if the past I’d tried to escape had finally caught up with me. But no matter what fate had in store for me, one thing was certain: I wasn’t about to let my guard down.
My fingers tightened around the knife in my pocket as we disappeared into the darkness.