This week’s entry to UnabridgedGirl’s Flash Fiction Thursday is going to be more an excerpt that I’m working to polish. Novel progress is fun, but I’m still struggling with Z and Gage’s dynamic. I’m working like hell to get it past the ‘utter garbage’ stage. So. Here it is.
Ducking beneath the corroded web of braided steel sky car cables, she padded swiftly over the city hall rooftop. The cables that were no longer in use still stretched across the city itself, even as they crossed over the freshly-built top storeys of the central building. City hall was more a place of misery than of hope and justice, and Hazel felt that it would not be long before the corruption and secrecy toppled the establishment into the muck from which it had risen. The slop that now bred the low-born, the slaves, and the servants of this new artistic revolution; beauty from the darkest of places. Beauty could not save them from the disease and plague that teemed from these places, overflowing from community to community, township to township. Perhaps ignorance was not so blissful, when the Reaper’s crook stood at the ready to take those who could not escape the filth into which they were born.
Still, as corroded as this city had become over the years, those who inhabited the hovels and boarding houses below would not leave this place for anything. Perhaps a vain sense of pride was all they had to boast, all there was to lift their spirits. Hazel understood that on a deeper level, though as she paced along the rooftop beneath the abandoned sky car lines, there was nothing she would have rather done than flee. Flee the city, the smoke stacks, the disease, the career that made her appear a fallen angel in the eyes of those who knew of her.
Depressing, really. Unfortunately, it was her career, her life, that gave her reason to stay here. Scouring the cobbled streets of Anamcara for the swollen-headed mouth-breathers that created the melting pot of crime and sickness that it had become had been the only saving grace for her sanity—and perhaps the cause for the failure of that sanity. And yet, like the people below, she would not change her lot in life.
“Toil the laborers of the Skycity–ye lowly Puppets of Prose, penning Our story in tainted blood,” whispered Hazel, reciting the scrawl of white paint smeared in desperate streaks across the brick wall of city hall; massive letters by the roof top so that all could see. It would be gone tomorrow, but the revolutionaries would return.
And eventually they would be caught and hanged from the sky car cables to be made an example of.
“Gage,” she breathed, “where are you when I need you?”
The young surgeon’s ‘projects’ took up a good deal of his time, and stole his brilliant ramblings from Hazel when she desperately needed them. It was Gage’s off-hand pondering aloud that helped Hazel see things more objectively, though it made her wonder if he had any leaning one way or another on any subject at all. He was a passionate man, with a gentle bedside manner; an old friend.
He could be cold though, in the things he said, as if objectivity came naturally, and it was his heart that fought violently to come through in his opinions.
“Fuck me, what could you possibly be doing this time of night?” She huffed, and took a running leap from the side of City Hall, quickly latching to a ladder on the adjacent building, her boots and gloves making her descent an easy slide from roof to pavement.
“You said midnight.” A man stepped from the shadows, bespectacled, and tugging a watch from his fob pocket. “You’re early.”
“So are you.” Hazel turned around to face Gage, unstartled by his stealthy entrance. “They’ve moved again.”
“Yes.” Her voice was impassive, but the way she glanced at her partner made him stiffen a bit.
“You should have stopped them. That’s your job,” spat Gage, tucking the watch roughly back into his waistcoat.
“My job?” Hazel’s features twitched, and she drew a breath to remember to keep her voice down. “You were supposed to keep intelligence on that situation, Gage. Your connections are failing me. If that continues, then I don’t suppose I’ll find any more use for you.”
The surgeon stared at her for a moment, and removed his hat, straightening his hair with his free hand. “You don’t mean that, Z.”
Of course she didn’t mean it, and her posture sank a bit. “Just get me what I need to know: where they’ve gone and by what route.”
A bird-like squawk pierced the air, though it was distant, screeching across the city, as if in warning. Hazel lifted her head, and Gage lowered his, both holding their breath as the cutting, high-pitched bark stilled the moment. Hazel glanced to Gage, and his eyes lifted, their expressions mirrored severity.
“I’ll have everything you need to know by morning.” Punctuating that statement, Gage turned sharply, and disappeared off into the darkness of the alley, the clicking of his leather soled shoes fading as quickly as he did.
Hazel watched him go, a cold pit growing in her belly as her contact disappeared before her eyes.
“I sincerely hope you do….”