Part five in the Rainbow series:
Rain falls on the filthy streets of the slums. The shining neon lights of the assorted stalls blur and refract like a kaleidoscope of colour through the water. Passing drunks, vagrants and strung-out no-hopers along her way Sonorous spares them not a second glance. Human refuse is pushed down from the corporate cities and gathers among the trash beyond the sight of the fortunate.
Eight years since she’d left Dvorovoi, life was harder here but she had adapted. Though not entirely unscathed. Leaving her family officially had been a liberating but fleeting happy moment. Choosing to refuse employment with Dvorovoi had cost her a place in the city, the money she had saved for this purpose travelled much shorter than she had hoped. While the corporations take a massive cut of your earnings for living costs, they also tend to the necessities of housing for their employees. While down here in the slums, everything you earn you keep but there’s no guarantees for anything. Like no-mans land between the corporate cities the slums exist outside the control of any single power. Criminal syndicate fill the power vacuum and play the roles of pawns in the proxy wars between the higher powers.
It was this criminal element that drew her to the slums of the undercity. War between corporations was common, but due to the balance of power any direct attack would provoke unified retaliation from all others. The rise and fall of corporations does still occur when one falls another will expand its influence or new factions will arise in the opening. The attack on Dvorovoi was not a direct strike from a rival but the perpetrators must have had powerful backers, the Dvorovoi Tower would be simply impossible to penetrate otherwise. Here she could find those who knew about the attack, or at least people who can point here in the direction of those who might know.
Stepping onto off the street Sonorous takes a seat on the subway carriage, the ground opens beneath the car lowering her into the tunnels. Leaning back in the seat, she closes her eyes as the magnetic rail sends the car hurtling back towards her little slice of hell. The subway cost is prohibitive, but the only efficient means of transport between the vast distances of the undercity. Travelling to meet with Faith for lessons often costs a weeks work, unfortunately she has no option for now.
In the months following her departure from Dvorovoi, finding work consumed her whole life. The frustration of her inability to search for answers was quickly overshadowed by her dwindling funds and the danger of life without food or a roof. After her savings had been completely depleted but before she’d been forced to resort to dangerous options, she was hired by a tech merchant called Leon Patel to re-program the pieces that came into his wares that couldn’t be resold in their current condition. The work was hard and the pay was shit, but for a unaugmented programmer demand was low.
For seven years she slaved for enough money to live, to eat and when she was lucky, to put some away. During this time she Leon would hire her out to others who needed an unattached hacker willing to work without questions. His cut was well over half of her pay, but every cent was a step forward. She took whatever and every job she could, nothing was illegal in the slums but anything could get you killed if you were unlucky. Last year she’d finally made enough for her surgery. The augmentation to allow her to enter the network. The day Aaren had finally truly died, and Sonorousmind had been born.
The drone of the seemingly endless subway journeys always got her nostalgic. Nostalgia never did her any favours. There was nothing for her in the past. Keep moving forward, without looking back. If only she could.
Her entire life until now had been a waste. Fifteen years treading water to be pulled under and throttled by the currents for eight more. Raising a hand to gently trace her fingers along the thick scar along the back of her neck, her eyes close to focus on the feeling. The scar that symbolised her rebirth.
After all those years working all day every day, sacrificing comfort and safety to relentlessly pursue this single minded dream. After all that. It feels like such a small thing. Six hours under the knife. Sixteen weeks recovering. Only to find the path ahead has grown much longer. The augment alone is useless, without the skill and training to use it she was hardly any closer to her goal. A teacher would cost half again what she had paid for the surgery. Without collateral she couldn’t borrow that, and another seven years of wait was unacceptable.
For every contact she had made in these seven long years, the only suggestion from any of them for a teacher was Faith. They had been right, after travelling over night on the subway with only enough money to return afterwards she had found Faith’s shop. Without even knowing her, the heavily augmented woman had agreed to teach her for future payment.
“You want me to teach you to use your augment.” Faith had said after listening to Sonorous’ request.
“I can’t afford to pay you yet-”
“Obviously,” Faith teases, seeming to look through the younger woman with her piercing eyes. Possibly the last natural part of her body that could be seen. Leaning thoughtfully back she continues, “Why?”
“The real money goes to divers these days,” the obvious reason anyone in the slums would get augmented. Faith raises an eyebrow incredulously. Met with a determined stare, the Aug finally sighs with a shrug.
“Alright, I’ll teach you. Don’t worry about money, you’ll owe me a favour in my experience they’re worth more in the long run.”
Shaken from her reminiscing by the sudden halt of the subway, in the short walk from the subway exit to the capsule hotel she’s already moved on from the past. After all, there is nothing for her there.