It's always raining in Inersia, our great capital. The city state lies under a permanent fixture of shadowy clouds which constantly cry a river of tears, drowning the earth beneath it in endless rain. Hot neon lights provide illumination without heat, advertising a place to stay or goods to be bought. Everyone carries an umbrella, so seen from above the city streets resemble a sea of black as the small portable shelters beneath which people hide push and shove their way through the crowds. Skyscrapers dominate the skyline, looming overhead casting an ever early dusk and creating pitch black midnights in the areas outside the influence of the lights, and in the shadowy alleys things lurk in the darkness.

Down at the ground level a layer of fog and smoke sticks to the ground, carrying with it the stench of raw sewage from below and the choking fumes of car exhaust. There's a buzz in the air as the constant chatter around the city reverberates through the streets, intermingled with the ceaseless passage of cars. The cold moon is all that can ever be seen above, a dim dot in the sky obscured by the clouds casting its faint white light on the cityscape below; the sun never shines above us, if there exists a sun I've never seen it because in all 28 years of my life not once has anything but the moon shone above this city as far as I'm concerned.

Rain spatters onto the brim of my hat as I step out from the protection of the balcony overhang, splashing onto my long coat running glistening trails down its surface. From this height I should have been able to see across the entire city but the thick jungle of skyscrapers defies my attempts to look past it. A Thopter buzzes by fifteen meters above me, even from here I can hear the booming music that its occupants are playing, it floats past ephemeral and almost invisible against the night sky and obsidian glass with its silver-grey plates and silent thrusters. Below me there must be hundreds of cars in the street, all uniform in shades varying only from white to black, with some of the greys in between.

It's another fifteen minutes in the rain before my ride finally arrives, slick black and actually invisible; though I don't see it until its right beside the balcony I can hear it coming, it materializes in the thin air in front of me, all seven meters of the P-class combat Thopter. It's an alien looking thing, its body all one smooth piece, a stretched out teardrop turned onto its side with the perfectly rounded front end marred by four 25mm auto cannons that jut out at 90 degree angles. Two booms extend from its flanks, attached to which are the silencing cowlings housing its twin thrusters which propel the combat craft, and just left of these towards the cockpit is the access port through which I'm expected to board. The thing merely hovers there, not extending anything or offering entry beyond the access port sliding smoothly opening to reveal a yawning doorway through which I'm expected to enter.

I take two steps backwards before I run forwards and vault over the balcony ledge; there is 289 meters of thin air beneath me at this moment and for an instant I look down at the streets below and the endless sea of umbrellas, wondering what would happen if I were to fall. Then I am through the doorway and tumbling, pulling myself on to my feet even as the port closes behind me and I feel the Thopter begin to move now that I'm on board. The water on my clothes rolls off of my body and onto the floor which absorbs the moisture almost immediately.

[Good afternoon Captain Tel, did you enjoy your break?] the Thopter asked, sounding mechanical but not insincere.

"It was fine, wish they'd give me longer than four hours at a time though." I answered dryly.

[Shall I file a complaint to the upper office for you sir?] though it was smart, it wasn't quite there when it came to interpreting some of the finer intricacies of human speech.

"No, that won't be necessary. Where 'we headed today?"

[Red light district 7, the file has been uploaded to your profile and should be available for your viewing now.]

There were four passenger seats in this back seating area of the Thopter and I settled myself down into one of them casually taking a pair of issue shades from the slot in the armrest. I took a quick look at them before I put them on, they were more stylish these days, rather than the garish set of goggles we used to have to wear while on duty; apparently the higher ups actually understood the meaning of subtlety now. I put the glasses on and mentally toggled through until I had logged in and was looking at my mission briefings.

The file was short and to the point as always; awhile back they'd had someone new handling the mission briefings and I'd gotten almost an essay's worth of information. Clearly they hadn't truly understood the nature of my department or they wouldn't have, needless to say I hadn't received a mission brief like that since, I suspect the perpetrator of the lengthy briefs was either fired or moved to a different department. This file though, contained only a brief outline of my instructions and a portrait of the target; a short haired lady with cool blue eyes, about average in height and unremarkable in dress. I memorized the woman's look and her whereabouts before closing the file; I wouldn't open it again until I was done with the mission and back home.

"How long till we reach the insertion point?" I asked.

[Two hours and twenty seven minutes.] the Thopter hummed cheerfully.

"That far? The target is well within city limits according to the file."

[Several other operatives have been dispatched to prepare the operational zone for you, we will be standing by to assist until we are given the signal for you to begin.] the Thopter explained.

"Alright then, if you don't need me for anything I'll be sleeping here in the back. Wake me if you need me."

[Yes Captain.]

I slept and there was darkness.


Can you hear it? Through all of the shadows and the darkness, can you see it? The corruption that spills through the cityscape like deathly ooze, that clings to everything it touches. It's a hissing miasma that spills over everything, even you.

We're not paid to think about our orders Summers, we just do what we have to do and stay alive to get paid.

If you think like that, how can you expect things to ever change?

Do you want things to change?

Do you like the way things are now?


Then what will you do?

I don't know.