Nightfall: The Source by MarkHirst ()
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I knew from the start that this was not an equal partnership.
Whatever our reasons for working together, Sylenia was the one who demanded and delivered the most. She was both the brains and the brawn of our collaboration, and definitely the best looking. Sometimes I'd laugh to myself, definitely a case of beauty and the beast. I sometimes wonder what she gets in return, because I can't begin to match her strength, agility or endurance. She claims that I am her eyes and ears, and that is certainly true. Ever since that first trip into the city, where I first saw her claustrophobia of large crowds, she has only ventured into the city at night. Sometimes she will watch out for me from a far during the day, but it's a risk she is reluctant to take.
Day to day, she works on her spacecraft, making repairs or using its sensors to listen in to the private conversations of citizens and commercial enterprises. It's all part of her plan; to find out where the new strains of Dust are coming from, and to uncover the criminal elements that thrive on its distribution. She's explained that the Dust is an alien technology, like an army but on a microscopic scale. She says it can function on its own, but only in a limited fashion. What it really needs is a controlling intelligence, a superior level of life form that can feed it instructions and give it direction.
I figure she's after the drug dealers when she says that, the guys that make the stuff and sell it on the streets. I say that because that's what I after too, to find the punks that are destroying our children, killing our communities, and buying off the politicians. Sylenia shakes her head and tells me it is a struggle that has lasted millennia, and the future of her race may depend on it, but I prefer to keep things simple and direct; we are here to clean this place up, one criminal at a time.
Our preferred form of transport is Sylenia's air car, because the dimensional portal created by her ship takes massive amounts of power and draws unwelcome attention. It means that it is some thirty minutes from setting out from our lair to arriving in the light filled night of the city. As we travel, Sylenia explains that she has found what she thinks is a safe house for a Dust gang, and needs to get samples and intelligence from anybody we find there.
It's a mission we have done before; it usually turns up something new and interesting for Sylenia, and gives me a chance to break some heads while I'm there. I am the front man, because I am human, while Sylenia observes and directs from the roof or a nearby building, only intervening if the odds get stacked against us, and only as a last resort.
Like any safe house, there are plenty of guards around it keeping patrol, which means clearing the way has to quick and deadly. Sylenia decides she will neutralise the guards, leaving me to watch from the shadows while she waits to attack.
In a moment it's all over, with two dead men lying at her feet. It's difficult to see the beautiful woman I share a lonely warehouse with and this ruthless killer as the same person. I just hope that she doesn't decide I'm no longer useful to her.
Her gentle musical voice tells me to approach, but by the time I reach the door, she has already scaled two flights of ladders and is watching from the roof. I can see why guys are tempted to take Firewire or Surge, variants of the Dust that give super human performance.
If I ever wanted to become her physical equal in this little team of ours, something like Dust might be the only way; what an irony that would be.
-- Joshua Isuza, Shallows District, Candor City.
All source images rendered in Vue 8 Complete using customised toon materials. Final image created using Photoshop CS2.
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