The Shallows District Projects are a grim place at the best of times, even more so when dark grey clouds hang over it shedding their tears.
The wretched high-rise buildings thrown up to house thousands of displaced and frightened refugees became a magnet for crime, murder and gangs. The police soon gave up trying to enforce the law in the Projects, and only reacted to mass riots or outbreaks of dust mutation where they threatened other areas of Candor City.
Getting into the Projects wasn't as easy as I thought, with barbed wire, junked cars and concrete walls forming a border around it. Surly chain wielding punks with broken teeth and scarred faces guarded the main entrances, extracting money and loot from the hapless inhabitants trying to go to work or find food. Sylenia and I wandered around for more than an hour before we found a poorly guarded gap, approaching the solitary thug when we were sure nobody was watching. The fat muscle bound hulk stared at me with practiced malice, allowing his decrepit pistol and ugly knife to convey a lazy, vicious threat. The face became an expectant smile though when he saw Sylenia's shrouded form, and the misshapen body that had slouched against a rusting oil can stood eagerly to block her way.
His attempt to grab her shoulder was slow and practiced, the self-assured arrogance of a daily ritual that had gone unchallenged for years. Sylenia batted the hand away with a casual flick of her arm and tried to continue, but the face of the thug twisted into a petulant and childish frown, the look of an adult who had grown up having never learned the meaning of the word no.
I tried to intervene of course, but the scratched barrel of a pistol snapped up and pointed at my forehead. Meanwhile, its wielder tried to peer closer at Sylenia, pushing its disgusting face forward to see what lay hidden behind her cloak and veils. As I watched the dark barrel move unsteadily in front of me, the thug was pushing and shoving her, taunting her to show her face. Sylenia backed away and tried to go around but the thug laughed, taking the gun away from my face and using it to lift her hood. Something in Sylenia seemed to snap and she looked up at her tormentor, pulling her veil away and fixing the punk with a steady gaze. He blinked in surprise, lost for a moment in wonder. I saw the thoughts on his face begin to form and it disgusted me.
Sylenia's hand was a blur as it connected with his face, a dull thud and a faint crack telling me that the thug lying in front of me was quite dead. Sylenia nursed her hand momentarily before stepping across the body and into the Projects. Pulling her hood back over her head, she looked back at me with impassive eyes. Earlier, those eyes had pleaded to me in the sweltering crush of humanity; now they held the utmost authority and an intent that nothing could stop.
It didn't take long to find Dust, because everybody seemed to be trying to sell it to us, but we were looking for particular people, and they had names that caused most people to turn away in fear. It was only when Sylenia held out bars of gold that greed overcame terror, and we were led to the main suppliers. They insisted that she meet them alone which I objected to immediately, but she silenced me with those grey eyes of hers, and agreed to their demands.
So I stood alone with the minders, while Sylenia was led away. I told myself that even four of them were no match for her superhuman abilities, but it could only take a single bullet to lay her low, so I worried for her anyway. I kept her in sight for as long as I could and tried to keep calm, but could not help but jump when the heavy door closed shut. The guards laughed, and my spirits fell even lower. They joked amongst themselves for a while, but the minutes began to stretch out too long, so leaving one of them to guard me, the others went to investigate.
When the gunfire started, I knew what to do. A well-placed kick sent the guard crashing to the ground, but as I ran towards the distant door, I saw the dealers and their bodyguards streaming out of the doorway. There was no sign of Sylenia at all, and with bullets heading my way, had no choice but to run.
The police where waiting, shooting anybody who carried a weapon. I knew the drill and stood with my hands outstretched. Around me, residents of the Projects where being rounded up and bundled into waiting vans. I looked at every woman but couldn't see Sylenia anywhere. I wanted to shout her name, but I figured I was in enough trouble already. When it was my turn to be retina scanned, the officer looked across to his superior in surprise.
"This guy's supposed to be dead…"
Urban Future by Stonemason. M3 figure in Hardcore outfit.
Scene assembly and final rendering in Vue 6 Pro Studio. Post processed in Photoshop CS2