There were times when Midori Wang hated her job.
A few days before, she and other Costa Moeira security personnel had responded to a trespassing call at one of the company's waste processing plants deep in the heart of Gomorrah. The squatters had no intention of leaving, though, and the confrontation drew the attention of some street gangs who were in the mood for a good rumble. Midori had absorbed considerable punishment in the ensuing riot; lacerations crisscrossed her face, her body was a mass of bruises and she swore that the stench of sewage and tear gas still lingered on her skin. She had drawn extended light duty as a result, however, and was now standing guard at Chicago Hub, one of the stations of Gomorrah's monorail system.
It was the middle of the day, and as everywhere else in the city activity had come to a standstill. Midori was glad to finally relax; she had been enduring the stares of people passing through the station all morning. Most had looked at her with sympathetic winces or outright horror, and a few kind souls had asked if she was all right. More than once, though, she caught people sneering at her with satisfaction, as though she had gotten what she deserved.
That was the worst part about her job. She knew it wasn't personal, that people only saw the uniform and not her. Even the jerks only saw a Corp-Serf (she always hated that phrase) who had taken some lumps. She also knew how hard it was to catch a break in Gomorrah, especially for people who were down on their luck or who were just starting out. Her mind turned once again to the group of Liberati she had encountered a few weeks back and she wondered how they were doing ... especially the one who had called himself Sanlander. It had only been a brief encounter, but there was something about him ....
"Excuse me, has the train to Pittsburgh Hub come by yet?"
Midori turned around to face a man wearing a slate gray jumpsuit and holding some large bags. Though he seemed familiar, she didn't recognize the corporate insignia on his clothes or the Liberati ribbon over his shoulder -
"Oh, hi!" said the man with a sudden smile.
Midori's eyes went wide in spite of herself, and she stammered for a moment as she tried to regain her composure. "Uh, um, hello, Mister, uh, Sanlander. What a nice surprise."
"It certainly is," he replied, then he let out a low whistle as he examined her face. "Sweet Prophet, what happened to you?"
Feeling very self-conscious, Midori turned away and tried not to blush. "Oh, an occupational hazard, I'm afraid," she said as she tried to avoid meeting his gaze. She locked onto the emblem on his jumpsuit and quickly changed the subject. "I see you found a job."
"Yes, I did, with Hayabusa Aerospace," he affirmed. "It's an aircraft manufacturing firm over in Genji Trench."
"That's great, great," Midori said. "And how about your friends? Are they doing well?"
"Mostly," he replied. "One of them is sick."
"Oh, that's too bad," said Midori. "Do you need medicine, or do you think she needs a doctor?"
"I think she'll be okay," Sanlander said.
"Well, if you do need anything," Midori continued, "I'd be happy to help, even if it's just to tell you where to go. I'll give you my datarig address - but you don't have a rig yourself, do you?"
"No, but I do have one of these," Sanlander said as he pulled out a smart pack reader. He offered it to her and asked, "Would you mind?"
"Not at all," Midori said with a smile as she took the reader and held it to the datarig at the base of her skull. She liked that he was polite enough to ask; most people would have just held the device to her head themselves without thinking twice about it. The reader chirped when it read the signal from her datarig, and she handed it back to him. He looked at the device's display and said, "Midori Wang, Costa Moeira." Putting the reader back in his pocket, he smiled and said, "Nice to meet you again, Ms. Wang."
"Midori, please," she said.
"Midori. I'm Jim," he replied as a sound from one end of the monorail tracks quickly grew to a roar. Midori said, "You were asking about the train to Pittsburgh Hub? This is it."
"Oh, thanks a lot," Jim said as the monorail pulled into the station. Motioning with the bags in his hands, he continued, "I've got to get home. It's my turn to cook." "Well, enjoy the daylight," Midori said, "and please let me know if you need anything for your friend."
"Thanks, I will," said Jim as the monorail cars' doors opened. Midori watched as he boarded the train and found a window seat. He smiled to her and waved, and she waved back as the train pulled out of the station. She had a smile on her face for hours afterwards.
It wasn't until much later that she was struck by something odd.
What did "Sweet Prophet" mean?
Heavy Gear is © 2002, Dream Pod 9, Inc. All rights reserved. APAGear is not affiliated with Dream Pod 9 in any way. Submitted material remains the property of the creator.