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Tom felt dizzy. He hadn’t eaten or drunk anything since lunch. There was a Campbell’s Drug Mart half a block away and Tom hurried to it. He entered and beheld the giant portrait of Alistair Campbell (each business Campbell owned had one). It was troubling enough for Tom that he worked for this man. He was further disturbed by how much of the city Campbell owned and controlled. But what could you do? Tom raced to the beverages, grabbed a limited-edition 500-ml Campbell Cola, paid for it, and hurried back to the row of scooters.
He examined the fine print first:
UNLOCK BY IMPRINTING THUMB AND INDEX FIGURE. FEE WILL BE DEDUCTED DIRECT FROM BANK ACCOUNT. DRIFT SCOOTERS MUST BE RETURNED AFTER 2 HOURS. SCOOTER EMITS NEUROTOXIN AS PENALTY FOR OVERUSE. AUTHORITIES WILL BE NOTIFIED.
Following the instructions, Tom pressed his thumb on the scanner on the scooter control panel. The vehicle then emitted a sound, which he figured was a good thing. He followed with his index finger. The scooter roared to life. A glowing red timer reading 2:00:00 flashed. The machine then levitated off of the ground. Tom snapped open his Campbell Cola and gulped nearly a quarter of the can in one sip. It had been a long day and the Campbell Cola was the best way to fire up your day. That was how the ads put it and Tom was dismayed that he remembered the jingle by heart.
Navigating the condos was always the grandest of tasks when taking to the skies. The sprawl of tall buildings did not afford a great deal of space. And Tom wasn’t an expert with Drift technology. He lowered the scooter in an effort to more closely survey the streets.
That handmade cage, it was the kind used by independent downscale butchers around the city for trapping animals and selling them for meat. Tom knew where to go.
Tom circled and dashed half a mile south-west, past the newly remodelled arena — renovated thanks to a donation from Tom’s boss. Maybe this year will be the year. Stanley Cup drought can’t last forever.
Tom lowered the Drift Scooter to the ground. Several vendors occupied the open lot in front of him.
His phone vibrated. “Hello?”
“How goes the hunt?” Ceren asked.
Tom wasn’t sure how to answer. “Strange.”
“Well that goes without saying.”
“Checking up on me baby?”
“I wouldn’t be the amazing lady I am if I didn’t.”
“That’s why I love you.” Tom shifted the scooter into PARK. He walked through the market.
“So where are you?”
“The Midnight Market.”
“Are you serious?” Ceren’s voice grew concerned.
“I won’t be long babe. I just have a hunch.”
“Be on your guard Tom.”
Tom surveyed his surroundings. The Midnight Market was a fixture of downtown life for those who were just scraping by. The place was vast. People flocked to the vendors, shelling out crumpled cash for chicken, ham, turkey, whatever they could nab. Rodent meat was particularly popular because it was so cheap. The clients were of all backgrounds and ages. The quality each of them shared was their torn, ashy clothes. Anybody that took note of Tom quickly reverted their attention back to the food.
“I’ll be alright,” Tom said into the phone.
“Weren’t you in a sewer?”
“Yeah. I was.”
“Then how did the bird...?”
“Babe I have no idea.” Tom scoped each vendor. “This day is one for the record book.”
“Just be careful alright? Come home soon.”
“Will do baby.” Tom marched forward.
He stopped in his tracks. To his right, a vendor selling deli-style cutlets was preparing an order for a family of six. But it was the sound coming from behind the wooden counter, that distinctive crowing, that interested Tom. He downed the rest of his cola and chucked the can into what appeared to be a trash bin. A newspaper jagged out. PM GUARANTEES 1,000 JOBS BY MONTH’S END, said the headline.
Brushing by people in the line, Tom approached the deli vendor. He half expected to get into a scuffle but the customers did not react.
“You got anything unique in storage?”
The vendor shrugged. “Just the usual meats.”
The crowing sounds resumed. “Give it to me and I’ll pretend this never happened.” Tom revealed his holstered trank gun. It looked intimidating enough.