Prompt: Write a 3000 word story using 'Welcome back.' as the first line.

"Welcome back sir."

"Thank you Natalie." Solomon Meyers stepped out of the automotor onto the sidewalk. The door of the sleek black vehicle slid shut behind him and the automotor glided away, its electric engine whisper quiet.

"I trust you had a productive meeting?" Natalie, his PA, asked as they walked toward the front doors of the District-7 government office. It was an anachronistic building; with a wide marble facade rising into an imposing tower of steel and glass.

"Well, you know how these things go. Once all the posturing and ego stroking is out of the way there's rarely time to get any actual work done." They entered the lobby, Solomon nodding a greeting toward the reception desk as they headed for a bank of elevators at the back of the room. "All quiet on the home front?"

"One call from Governor Grifone's office over in District-4, the Urban and Infrastructure Development Council want to reschedule their appointment, and your wife left a message about dinner reservations this weekend."

Solomon activated his NeuroLink and subconsciously flipped through his personal inbox while they walked. "Grifone can wait. I'll deal with the UIDC first." He stepped into the mirrored cubicle of the elevator as the doors slid open.

Natalie glanced at her watch, "I'll be up in a minute sir, I'm going to go grab a coffee."

"Don't be too long. I'm lost without you here, you know." Solomon flashed her a winning smile as the the elevator doors closed between them.

"Medicol-A non addictive drug freely available to the public that promotes physical and mental health. Medicol: For a better life, however you live it."

The city was a never sleeping beast; human and machine working together in a constant thrum of life, a pulsing heartbeat of civilisation. A billion lights flickered across the skyline, reflecting off glass and metal monoliths. Automotors raced along eight lane highways while mag-rail transits criss-crossed between districts on their network of gossamer tracks. The office complexes hummed with a hundred thousand servers and industrial sectors flared and flashed, casting a haze of heat that shimmered high above the rooftops.

Life in the Urban Mega Complex had improved and advanced exponentially due to three major scientific breakthroughs: the invention of Medicol, the development of "clean fission" energy, and the construction of the massive superstructure that soared three hundred metres above the city. This Sky Shield blocked out the sun's harmful radiation and plunged Nychta City into eternal night.

The half empty blister pack of Medicol slipped from numb fingers, eyes glazed over, pupils dilated. She reached for the pay phone beside her almost before it rang. A digitised voice came through in a dull monotone.

"Red. Alpha. Raindance. Sovereign. Ultra. Zero. Zero. Seven. Four. Comply." The phone beeped as the line went dead.

Simone Lang hung up the receiver and dropped a rapidly cooling cup of coffee into the trash bin. She opened the hatch in the side of the bin and reached under the plastic bag inside, pulling out a matte black gun. It was an antique automatic, small calibre, with its serial number filed off and its barrel modified to fit a modern suppressor.

Simone left the break room and walked down the hallway, moving quickly, gun held close to her body. The few people she passed paid her little attention. The woman behind the reception desk glanced up as she passed. "Hey, you wa-" Without looking Simone raised the gun.

One. Two.

The receptionist's chair clattered across the marble floor. Simone felt the gun kick in her hand but barely heard the thump of the muted shots under the pounding buzz behind her eyes. She approached a small door beside the elevators, pulling a pin from her hair. With a few twists she fit the pin into the keyhole and a moment later the lock snapped open. Beyond the door was a service stairway. She ran to the third floor, expensive shoes light against steel and concrete.

Exiting the stairway she saw her destination; a steel door across the hallway with "SECURITY" printed in bold black letters. This door was electronically locked with a card reader. Simone activated her NeuroLink and uploaded a virus that instantly cracked the lock's programming, and the door slid open.

Inside was a small room with a bank of CCTV monitors. A security guard swivelled in his chair, opening his mouth to protest as he saw Simone.


Blood sprayed across the monitors and the guard slumped over his desk. The main breaker for the building was in this room. Simone thrust her elbow through a glass case, pulled out a fire axe, and swung it one-handed into the breaker panel in a shower of sparks. The room went dark. A few seconds passed, then deep red emergency lighting came up as the back up generator kicked in.

With the main power out everyone in the building would resort to NeuroLink comms. Simone broadcast a second virus that would jam anyone with their personal WiFi open. She left the security office and took an elevator to the twenty ninth floor. As she stepped out of the elevator she reached back and hit the button for the thirtieth floor, then took the stairs up.

On the next floor she came across another security guard inspecting the empty elevator, one hand hovering near his sidearm. He spotted Simone as she slipped past and called out to her, "Ma'am? Are you alright?" He noticed her gun with an expression of growing concern and reached out to put a hand on her shoulder, "Hey! What are-"

Simone grabbed his wrist and twisted her body, forcing the guard to double over, then pressed the barrel of her gun under his jaw.


The guard crumpled to the floor. Simone stepped over his body and approached the double doors to the office of District-7 Governor Solomon Meyers.

Inside, Solomon sat at his desk, white suit painted scarlet in the dull emergency lighting. He'd spent the last several minutes trying to get a message out to maintenance, then security, then reception, Natalie, anybody. Something seemed to be blocking his NeuroLink. He stood up as the door suddenly opened and a woman in a dark suit strode in. "Natalie? What's-" He cut off as his PA levelled a gun at him.

Five, through the heart. Six, between the eyes.

Solomon collapsed back into his chair, head falling forward. Simone froze for a moment, the throbbing in her head beginning to clear. Then the phone on Solomon's desk rang. She picked it up.

"Black. Alpha. Phantom. Harlequin. Radiance. Nine. Zero. Seven. Two. Comply."

Both phone and gun dropped from her hands. There was a crash as Solomon's chair burst through the glass wall of his office, plummeting thirty storeys to the street below. It was quickly followed by Simone Lang.