I haven’t heard from Bright in a few days, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing. It’s not that I don’t appreciate her business— it’s just that in my experience it often ends up being more trouble than it’s worth.
Today, I’m working the regular job, delivering produce from an underground hydroponics farm on 31st to a gray-market grocery in one of the nicer districts in the mid city.
There used to be real farms when I was growing up; little dots of green scattered just inside the dome. The last few were shut down about three years ago. The government cited a number of factors for the closures, cost and improvements in lab grown food production at the top of the list.
Anyone with half a brain knew the truth— for one, it it’s just too damn hot. But worse than that, the Dome was leaking. Radiation from the wasteland outside was seeping in. The crops that survived the heat were poisoned.
Supply from the food labs never meets demand; it could never hope to with the rate of population expansion. I used to curse my neighbors for breeding— but now, with a baby on the way, I don’t really have room to talk. Sometimes logic can’t top instinct. Hell, most of the time it doesn’t. But we’re doing what we can. Despite the laws against independent food production, a number of hydrofarms have cropped up in abandoned office towers or parking garage sublevels, anywhere there’s space. The cops mainly turn a blind eye. They’ve got families to feed just the same as we do, and the rations are never enough.
So I do food runs in the mid city. It’s a living, and one I can feel decent— clean— about.
I haul the last crate of goods into the cramped back room of the store, and wait for Mrs. Cho. She pays me in cabbage, homemade tofu, and fuel coupons.
Outside, the light is fading with the sunset, but it never really gets dark under the dome. There’s a mix of levtrucks like mine and outdated wheeled vehicles parked on the street outside. For the first time I wish I my ride was old-fashioned— I would have seen the man waiting for me if the truck hadn’t been resting on the ground.
“This your ride?” He’s short but broad shouldered. I search his face for a defining feature, find nothing except black beedy eyes and a slight smirk.
“What if I said no?” As I shift the weight of the in my arms, I notice the gun. He’s holding it low, close to his body, where no one else on the street is likely to notice. It’s aimed at my guts.
It’s one swift motion; he tosses the gun to his off hand and cracks me with a solid punch in the stomach. I suppose I should be thankful he decided to use his hands, but as I double over and the box of groceries splits open and spills on the ground I’m far from it.
“Stay out of the lower city.”
He walks away so casually. It burns me up inside. A year or two ago I would have gone after him and beat that air of superiority out of him. These days I have more important things to worry about.
Cabbage and tofu. Polly and my baby at home. I tell myself to let it go.
I curse him, then myself.