The Package Drop (Lead in)

This is very early in the process, and there are no paragraph breaks currently. Essentially this occurs in a semi post-apocalyptic earth that has been merged with the fairy realm. The fairy realm used to be separated from earth by some sort of veil, but one day it was destroyed and the two worlds merged, causing war to break out and the humans won, due to advanced technology. This will all be explored at another time, but sets the scene for this section.

Some days just aren't worth the effort it takes to get out of bed. But when it could mean the difference between life and death, leaving your bed was something of a necessity. I knew this all too well. Sweeper droids routinely scan my little dwelling every morning, searching for lifeforms like me. Lately, they've been raising the frequency of the sweeps in my area; it would be time to move on soon. It was a shame, I'd actually started to like the strange room with the large tanks of brackish water and metal objects which I could only assume to have once been kitchen appliances. At night, the little particles in the green water tanks seemed to dance in the glow from the neon light that shone through the broken window, and the kitchen appliances made good places to hide things from the sweeper droids. That is, if I could ever find anything worth hiding besides my meager bedroll and few small trinkets I've been able to keep from before.


Ari rose from her nest, deflated and folded her SlumberTrap Explorer 3000(TM), tucked it into her backpack, and listened, hopefully, for the faint clicking sound that meant the elevator was operational. It worked very infrequently, and when it didn't, she had to scale the fire escape that gave out half way down, and the rusted gutter pipe the rest of the way. Sometimes she took the roof tops if the streets looked particularly crowded, but the path up was even harder, the fire escape non-existent, the gutter pipe too flimsy to crawl up, and the few jutted bricks she used were none too sturdy either. But, the path up was shorter, and ultimately, the roofs were safer than the streets. Ari heard the soft whir of the engine starting up and the accompanying click click click of the ancient industrial elevator moving toward her. Whatever stairs there had once been in this place had been destroyed, and a straight drop into rubble was all that remained of that hallway. This elevator was large and bare, there were no walls, just a platform that raised and lowered, laboriously. Ari knew she was going to have to hurry, the streets were harder to maneuver and slowed her down, she had to get far away before the droids arrived, and she had a pick up near the heart of sector 3. The elevator let out into a small alley behind the building. She threw on her oversized hoodie and scarf. The air outside was hot and thick as always, but the scarf and hood helped protect her identity and shielded her from whatever was in the air around here. The further into the center she went, the clearer the air got. But that was also where the danger was. Sweeper droids every block, cameras on every corner, and every surface had a fingerprint reader built in. Ari did not have fingerprints. She'd touched one of the sensors once. A piercing alarm went off, stopping her heart and calling every droid within a mile. "So stupid!" she'd thought. How could she have forgotten to put on her gloves? The only reason she was able to get away was because of her friend Micah, who had rigged some makeshift EMP grenades for just that purpose. And that had been her last one, too. She never forgot her gloves again. A normal pair would have set off the alarms just the same as her bare hand did, no fingerprint meant not human, whether gloved or not. But these gloves were special. Micah had designed them as well. They only had enough charge for a short while, so Ari could only use them if she really needed to touch something, the rest of the time she had to find more creative ways of doing things. The gloves sent out a small glitch to the surface scanner, telling it that it wasn't feeling the applied pressure from her touch. Micah really was a genius. Ari had always marveled at his intellect. The things he could create with so few items! She would not have survived this world for as long as she had without him. It was for him that she'd agreed to this pickup in the first place. Sector 3 was the closest she had ever gotten to Sector 1 before, and Ari thought she would never have to go back again. Sector 1 held The Gate. She didn't like thinking about that, and she needed to focus, so Ari shook her head and readied herself to enter The Streets. It was something you had to have a knack for. A certain slickness. It had taken Ari a long time to learn it. Once on The Street, she could slip between the humans and through cracks in the walls and she was spry, so she could jump through the breaks in the automovers easier than most. But actually getting onto The Street was more difficult. The walkways all moved continuously and were usually crowded with people. The trick was to know where to jump in at, and to watch for the people that weren't paying attention to their surroundings. Even with the bulky hoodie, Ari could still draw attention with her somewhat hunched appearing frame. It was hard to conceal something as ostentatious as wings without looking at least a LITTLE out of the ordinary. Ari still, on occasion, allowed herself to remember the feeling of gliding on the wind, the air rushing through her gossamer wings, those feelings of freedom and rebellion that go so well together. Her whole body would tingle with the deliciousness of it. There was nothing else that could make her feel that way. But those days were gone, now, her beloved wings were the very thing that condemned her. Ari entered the fold with practiced ease. She had several miles to travel, and the moving walkways were the fastest way to get there. She was sure she could remain unnoticed for at least that long, and her short stature certainly helped. Ari wove through the throngs, always minding the handrails. There was a break in the walkway coming up and Ari was preparing to jump it when the walkway suddenly stopped. Could she have touched something? Did they know? She’d never seen the walkways just stop before. As she looked around she realized that ALL of the walkways had stopped, and people had either toppled over each other or simply had a stunned, bewildered expression on their faces. Apparently none of them had ever seen it before either. A moment later she saw a figure going the opposite way break into a run, and seconds later a swarm of sweeper droids had surrounded it, alarms shrieking. It had been a very long time since another one of her kind had been caught in these parts. “Alert! Do not approach the dangerous lifeform” it trilled “lifeform: place your hand on the scanner for identification. Failure to comply will result in immediate termination.” Ari craned her neck to better see the droid’s captive. She could make out a few stray blue hairs that had fallen beneath his hood. He had a slight bluish tinge to his skin as well. Faint enough that he might have been able to hide it if they weren't looking right for him. He must have been from one of the sea clans. Ari saw the terror in his eyes as he tentatively raised his hand to the sensor. She wished she could help, but she had no more EMP grenades, and anyway there were too many humans around who would be unaffected. Anything she could try would only end in trouble for her as well. So Ari could only watch as the frightened boy laid his hand on the sensor. As soon as he touched it, his legs gave in and he collapsed to the ground while the alarms shrieked and the Droids repeated in unison, "Identification confirmed: Lifeform Classified as Fay." Ari tried to see what had happened to the boy, if he was still alive, but all she could tell was that there was a small electrical current circling his unconscious body. In less than ten minutes, the authorities had arrived, scooped up his body, dispersed the droids, restarted the walkways, and left without any trace they had ever been there. Everyone else had returned to their own business, the altercation already forgotten. Which meant Ari had to as well. She couldn't dwell on what had happened, it wouldn't do the boy any good and she still had quite a bit to go until she reached sector 3. There were 8 sectors in this city; circling out from 1 in the center, each sector ringing the one before it. Sector 8 was commonly known as the ghetto, people in the lower numbered sectors sometimes didn't even believe it still existed. It was the safest sector in terms of staying under the radar of the authorities, but it had its own dangers too. Lack of security could mean just as much trouble if you didn't know how to handle yourself. Ari lived on the inside skirts of sector 6. There weren't as many thugs around, but you had to deal with more of the sweeper droids. Each sector was divided by differing degrees of security fences between the circles. The inside circle she lived near still had electric fences, but the outside circle bordering 7 only had barbed wire, and the one leading to 8 was just a chain link fence. You could jump the borders in some places if you were traveling by rooftop, but it was always a hard jump and you had to know the right spots. Cut right down the center of every sector, like someone had made the first slice into a giant cake, was The Street. Platform after platform of moving walkways that head straight into Sector 1, The Street is the fastest and only official way to move between the sectors. The Street is also divided by security details at each fence. Imaging scanners make quick imprints of the person's body shape as they pass through them, anything non bipedal or winged gets taken away. That’s why Ari always carried a backpack, it helped hide her shape. If there weren't so many magick dampeners around, she could cast a glamour to conceal her wings. Unfortunately, the AUTHORITIES had figured out that trick a long time ago, hence the dampeners. As she approached the scanner Ari shifted her weight so that she now leaned in to her backpack, crushing her wings against her body, and held her breath. It was an old habit, a silly superstition that somehow holding her breath through the scan would keep her safe. The scanner loomed overhead, flashing blue lights as it passed by, and finally Ari could breathe again. Sometimes it would make disapproving beeps at her, as if unsure it trusted her backpack, though it hadn't ever called down the AUTHORITIES. This scan was thankfully uneventful, which she was glad of because this day was already going to be stressful enough.

Ari mused again on how easily Micah could bend her to his will. She would never be doing such a dangerous drop if he didn't have those large puppy dog brown eyes. Well that, and the fact that he'd saved her life when she first came to this world, a fact he often liked to remind her of. Yesterday afternoon they'd been scavenging the junk yard for parts for his new project, when suddenly he turned and grinned up at her with such a mischievous look that Ari couldn't help but burst out laughing. “What is it now Mic? You have a new plan to take over the world using some string and an old carburetor?” Ari had asked, glancing at the contraption in his hand. “First of all, this is an alternator, not a carburetor, and second, remember how I saved your life that one time?” “You know, I don't quite recall...” She feigned. “That's because you were too busy getting your butt whipped by trackers! They're no match for me though!” She had to admit, the kid did have some stealth moves. Nowhere near her ability, but pretty good for a street boy. He'd snuck up behind the trackers that had her cornered, and deftly deactivated each one before the others realized it. “Fine, fine, Micah, you're the king of trackers, the savior of cornered women! What price do I now pay for your valiant services?” Ari did her best to bow at his feet but instead toppled over from the weight of her backpack, laden as it was with bits and bobs from the junkyard. Micah giggled at her as he helped her up, saying “Silly, girls don't bow, they curtsy!” “Fey don't bow OR curtsy, little man, so count yourself lucky!” “Do... fey make trips to sector 3?”, he'd asked, somewhat sheepishly. Ari groaned. “Sector 3!” He just pleaded her with those huge innocent eyes. She'd protested only marginally, since she already knew there wasn't anything she wouldn't do for this kid.


Ari made it through the rest of the scanners, and hopped off at sector 3.

The End

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