He wasn’t sure why she was following him, he had so many things on his mind that he honestly didn’t even notice her at first. His mind was in a fog, but that was something he had gotten used to. Life had been a fog for Cynical for some time, since the end of the war. They had called it the Never-Ending war. It sounded stupid and overly dramatic to anyone who hadn’t seen the front lines of that war, after all the war had ended, it had been over for the past five years. It had lasted for over a thousand years and stripped much of the battle field vegetation away and left the lands south the cities mostly desert. What had he been thinking about again?
“Sooo, sorry to bother you again Doctor, but are you headed to the surface? Cuuuuus it would really help if you could take me there.”
The high pitched and sliding slurring voice snapped him back to the moment. The—female? Yes, he was going to assume female until she corrected him. Or maybe it was bad idea to assume her gender…oh right she had asked a question.
“Yes, I’m going back to the surface. You can come with me if you want—are you sure you want to though?”
“Huh—whhhy would I nooot want to go see the surface?”
Cynical looked at the creature’s face, she had eyes—somehow—but she didn’t have a mouth. So, her face was an unreadable mask of flowing green slime. Cynical couldn’t even begin to fathom how she was alive, how her body had form and solid mass rather than just a liquid that puddled on the ground. And no matter how much he looked around her gelatinous semi-transparent body he couldn’t spot anything that looked like a brain. But she somehow could talk and form complex thoughts. But Cynical knew that monsters were always strange and difficult to understand. Some of them were intelligent, some of them were not. Almost none of them talked to any of the surface-dwelling races of the world. Fluxy had been the first one to even talk to Cynical directly let alone with the kind, calm domineer that Fluxy was showing him.
“Is there sooomthing on my face?” Cynical didn’t notice that he had been staring at her—no that wasn’t right. He knew he was staring it just hadn’t occurred to him yet that Fluxy would find it strange that he was staring at her.
“Sorry, I…” he trailed off searching for a way to explain what he was thinking and feeling. “I wasn’t expecting to meet someone like you today, is all. Look if you want to go to the surface, I’m not going to stop you, but I don’t really think people are going to treat you very well up there.”
“Soooo, nothing new then,” she said with a coldness that almost froze Cynical’s heart. “I want to see the rest of the world, there has to be something else out there besides dark hallways and damp sewers.”
Of course, there was, but Cynical supposed if she had been born in the underground sections of the layered city, she might not know that. Cynical didn’t think there was much in the world worth seeing. But then again, he had been given every opportunity to see the world so maybe what wouldn’t be that interesting to him might be worth risking everything to Fluxy.
“Alright, we’re almost there,” Cynical said at last acknowledging her resolve.
The two of them made their way to the super section of the swerves. The sewers got cleaner the closer to the surface one got. But that was the case with everything in the Layered city, the further up one got the nicer things tended to be. The skyscrapers and high-rises were the domain of the richest and most powerful. And the lowest section of the sewers were the slums where all the homeless were forced to live. Appearances were everything after all, the city couldn’t have the ugliness of homelessness interfering with the mental health and wellbeing of the productive citizens on the surface. There was a layer lower than the slums, the dungeons where the monster came from. Some even thought there was something deeper than that, but the adventures who made it their mission to explore the dungeons had never discovered anything deeper.
Eventually the two of them came to a ladder, that lead up to a manhole cover. It was the way Cynical had gotten down when looking for Ordell. He patted the ladder as though it was something important and delicate.
“This ladder will take us to the surface, let me go first though I need to make sure there aren’t any cars coming on the road above.” Fluxy nodded in response. Cynical didn’t know if she even knew what a car was, but she seemed okay with taking his word for it.
Cynical slowly made his way up the ladder, careful not to slip. The dampness of the whole sewer made the slick metal surface dangerous. Fluxy waited patiently at the bottom of the ladder, watching the doctor with interest as he made his way up and pushed slowly on the bottom of the manhole cover. As he did it slid up and off of its natural resting place, then he pushed it to the right and bright blinding light slid down into the dark space. He carefully popped his head above ground making sure no cars were coming. He had picked a less traveled road near the outskirts of the city, but it didn’t hurt to be careful.
When he had made sure they weren’t going to get run over he motioned for Fluxy to follow him and crawled up onto the surface. He offered his hand to his new friend to help her up. Her hands were large and only had two fingers and a thumb sticking out at a weird angle. Her hands felt sticky and almost seemed like they had glued themselves to Cynical’s. He was afraid for a moment that he wasn’t going to be able to get his hand separated from hers. But once he had helped her climb up their hands came apart, and while his hands felt a little sticky afterwards slime did not stretch between their hands like he expected.
When Fluxy first emerged from the sewer she was forced to close her eyes. Cynical could see that her eyes were not adjusting well to the light of the noonday sun. Cynical still couldn’t get over the fact that she had eyes that could react to light.
“It’s so bright, almost too bright,” she said as she shielded her face with her hand and tried to force her eyes open. After only a few seconds she ended up having to close them again.
“Take your time and let your eyes adjust, there’s no need to hur…” he was going to say hurry but then a strong and familiar wind suddenly flared up and caused him to hesitate.
Oh no, he thought. This is the worst timing possible.
“Wait right their Fluxy, don’t go anywhere I’ll be right back.”
“Where are you going?” her voice was just as much judgmental as confused.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll be back before you know it,” and that was the last thing he said to her before taking off running in the direction the wind had been traveling.
I hope she wasn’t going far, there’s no way I can keep up with her. He needn’t have worried since he hadn’t been running for long when he spotted a familiar green haired man floating nonchalantly in the air.
“Livaris,” Cynical shouted up to try and get his attention.
“Dr. Cynical,” the green haired man said with an unnatural smoothness, as he floated down to ground level. “How are you doing this fine day?”
“I’ll tell you latter, first off, did you see Speed Demon going this way?”
“Yes, I did, she shouted at me and said the Black Hawk gang was fighting the Steely Drivers down by 104th and Emson.”
The green haired man’s nonchalant domineer might be off putting to most, especially considering he was talking about a battle in a gang war that had already killed hundreds of innocent people. But Cynical knew that Livaris was not a person in the strictest sense of the word. He was a robot, or an android, there was a technical term for what he was exactly, but it didn’t come too Cynical in that exact moment. His computer like coldness was an asset more often than it was a hinderance anyways so Cynical tried not to take it personally.
“I was going to join her but she said I should wait and see if anyone else came along, and look here you are.”
Cynical quickly went over everything he knew in his head about the two gangs. The Black Hawks were particularly violent compared to most of the other gangs, which was saying something. They tended to pick more fights, which was dangerous in the world of gangs and revenge. But it had worked out well for them somehow, they always struck first and crushed their opposition steeling all the assets and resources of the gang they were fighting. Which explained clearly why they were after the Steely Drivers; they were infamous for steeling gas from tankers and pipelines.
Cynical drew an elaborate art deco pistol from his coat pocket. He had no intention of letting innocent people get hurt in the needless violence of the city’s gang war. He was still a solider at heart, no matter how hard he had tried to leave that part of him behind. He stole a look back at where Fluxy was standing still shielding her face from her new painful discovery of the sun.
Don’t move, he thought to himself. Don’t go anywhere, there’s still a lot I want to ask you. And I’m sure a lot you need to ask before you find out what our world is like, the hard way….