Here, the cicada-esque shriekings of the lower ward’s oh-so-many hearts drowned out my own heart’s incessant jittering, piercing everything with its overriding timbre. Calling out to…
No, couldn’t be.
I paid the doorman and ducked through the entrance. ‘Home ain’t here’, read the only working SEC panels. Some doormat they made. The rest of the failing panels washed this dump with a penetrating purple, so that you couldn’t make out the collage of disgusting shit that never got scraped off the floor. Did a pretty good job, as long as you didn’t take a nap on it. The Sector did a number on a few norms here over the years. Can’t work that out without replacing everything. So it was a ‘feature’ now. A regular part of the bar, just like me and these damn purple SECs.
Although, all the lights in GN-9 couldn’t hide all of this fucking rust. Everywhere you looked: there it was, creeping up at you like it was ready to jump and take a bit rusty bite.
People even fall through and end up…
Well, they aren’t ‘anything’ after that, normally. And I should know.
“Greetings, Citizens of ‘Vernias’ Hub’, located in sector 390 of Ward 120,” the holo said, chiming over everything with a matter-of-fact tone. “This is a message from the Sector. Current ‘entity’ levels have resulted in additional restrictions in relation to the curfew placed—”
Someone removed the dampeners, cutting the holo short with the full droning of the ward’s heart. Someone in the back was jolted awake, and another shut herself off to cope. Couldn’t blame them. Without the dampeners it borderlines on unbearable for most.
“Chatty bitch,” the Boss said. “Ought to link this up thing up to the comms and save myself the trouble. Drown them out every time they try and start up a friendly conversation.”
“Yeah,” 7 said. “If only they weren’t so intent on snipping anyone bright enough to do it. That’s what happened at the Ponz last week. Collectors took the place by storm. Real show that was.”
The Boss grunted. A tired story.
“On the dot, every hour,” someone mumbled. “About the only reliable thing down here in good old Vernias.”
“Don’t forget the taste of these drinks.”
“How could I?”
They laughed, and my headache throbbed back to life. The ward’s hearts weren’t going to fix that, but I knew what would for the rest of the night. “Can I get something strong this time?” I asked, taking a seat. Felt like the entire stool was about to rot out from under me, but it had always been that way. Wouldn’t hear a complaint from me. Something about the degradation felt like… home.
“Sure thing Ace,” the Boss said, activating the outdated machination with a flick. “Ward 120’s best, comin’ right up.”
‘Ward 120’: a real shit-hole. But these days, this rotting shit-hole was about the only place where I could forget this heart of mine.
And the fact that my time…