Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Toronto-Buffalo-Cleveland-Detroit Metropolis, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Coop woke up early. Even after a night of debauchery he wasn’t able to get more than a few hours of sleep. There was too much on his mind, and too much he had to do before he had to be in court. But the first thing he had to do was Hailey…again. His morning-wood demanded it.
“Shower together?” Hailey proposed afterwards, knowing he would never turn it down.
“Yeah,” Coop threw the comforter off them, and headed into the apartment’s only bathroom. It would give the nanites a chance to clean the bodily fluids off his bed, but it wouldn’t do anything about the sex-stank.
Coop and Hailey slipped into the shower, and sealed themselves in. The shower stall was basically a large Polyplast tube. The floor was a sturdy mesh, and below that nothing but five stories of darkness. Coop remembered being young and fearing the mesh would collapse and he’d fall down the drain to the recycling vat in the tower’s basement. His father had told him to suck it up and get clean.
Nobody in a PHA had taken a shower with water in generations. The liquid that covered nearly three quarters of the earth’s surface was a precious commodity. Instead, air was blasted through the mesh above their heads, which scraped the dirt, grime, and sweat from their bodies. It didn’t make them smell a lot better, even after a “floral” disinfectant rushed over them in a second blast. The shower made Coop’s dick burn as the scourged dry fluids from his shaft, and Hailey’s grunt said the same about her tender breasts. Thankfully, the whole experience lasted about thirty seconds. They both emerged with their skin a shade pinkish.
With no need to towel off they walked naked back to their room and changed. What was left of Coop’s dad’s good suit was shoved into a corner. Coop didn’t bother to pick it up, the old man could deal with it once Coop was gone. Instead he pulled on the least ratty clothing he had. It wasn’t much, it covered everything, and it had only a few patch jobs. If what his dad said was true it wouldn’t matter soon.
“Go and have breakfast, I’ve got an errand to run,” Coop didn’t wait for a response. No Rat ever turned down free food.
The door to the apartment hissed open and Coop made sure to seal it quickly. In the main section of the tower the air was stale, but breathable; so he left the mask on his hip. He headed straight to the elevator where the guard from the night before was still on duty. Now the armed man looked worn out and on the verge of drifting off.
“Eighteenth floor,” Coop snapped the man out of his dreariness.
A short ride, and thirteen floors later, Coop stepped off the elevator and headed for his destination. This early in the morning the only people up were those in line for the medical clinic in the lobby. He peaked over into the core, and saw a line already stretched along the front of the abandoned shops.
He rounded the corner away from the interior apartments and down a short hallway to the ones that faced the exterior of the building. Right now it was pretty quiet on the streets. It was that magical time at daybreak where the world seemed to stand still just for a short while. Coop ruined whatever sense of peace there was when he buzzed the door at his destination. Through the polyplast walls he heard some choice swearwords, but he didn’t blame the occupants. It wasn’t even six a.m. yet.
“Let me in, Jimmy,” Coop felt more than saw the eyes of his friend through the apartment’s surveillance camera. “I promise you’ll like what I’ve got to say.”
There was only a slight hesitation before the door hissed open. Coop hurried inside and came face to face with Jimmy. The two young men had been friends since they’d attended the Commonwealth mandated kindergarten. Unlike Coop, who was skinny, Jimmy was a big guy. Big guys were a rarity in the PHA; which meant that Jimmy had good genes.
Jimmy was a good ten centimeters taller that Coop and weighed ninety kilos to Coop’s eighty. It might not seem like a lot to most people, but ten kilos was a hell of a lot to throw around in a Rat fight. The problem for Jimmy was he didn’t like to fight, and Coop did consider that a problem.
Jimmy straightened his glasses and rubbed the remaining sleep from his eyes. Medical science could grow replacement eyeballs and install in a few days, but Rats had to make do with centuries old corrective lenses. Even though Coop had made his decision about what he was going to do, the thought still pissed him off, and it nearly derailed his entire purpose for being here.
“You said I’d like what you got to say?” Jimmy got the conversation back on track.
“I’m going away for a while,” Coop didn’t give more details, and Jimmy didn’t ask for them.
“I heard as much,” the larger Rat nodded, but Coop caught the flash of sadness in his eye. It was there one moment and gone the next. Emotion wasn’t healthy for a Rat, even a big one like Jimmy.
“Don’t worry about it,” Coop acknowledged the sentiment while not pressing the issue. “I need you to take care of Hailey.”
That perked up Jimmy’s attention. Unlike Coop, Jimmy wasn’t as fortunate with the ladies; and since he didn’t get involved in the day-to-day fights of the PHA, women didn’t think they could rely on him for protection. Despite that, Coop still knew his old friend had a crush on Hailey. A crush that Coop wanted to be sure Jimmy would fight for.
“I’ll send her up here when I leave,” Coop didn’t feel bad that he was basically trading Hailey to Jimmy. It was either that or cut her loose all together. Hailey was tough, but a woman who looked like her wouldn’t last long by herself. “I need you to not be a pussy though.”
The remark cut deep, and Jimmy bristled with anger. “Fuck you, Coop,” Coop would have expected a punch from anyone else, but Jimmy held back.
“That’s the shit I’m talking about,” Coop gave his old friend a disgusted look. “People are gonna want Hailey, Jimmy. You better be ready to throw down for her. I’ll give my old man a heads up to keep an eye on you two, but he can’t do shit outside the tower.”
Jimmy glared back at Coop, and just nodded. That was good enough for Coop. He had much more important shit going on in his life. He’d done what he could for Hailey, and he’d hooked up his friend with a girl he’d been crushing on for years. That was as far as Coop was willing to go. The ball was in their court now.
“I’ll see you around, Jimmy,” Jimmy led him out, and they both knew the likelihood of them every seeing each other again was nearly nonexistent.
Coop headed back down to his apartment, and entered to the smell of a morning BSA tray. It smelled like old feet and molding leather. He peeked in long enough to see that Hailey was eating before heading straight back into his room. He needed to pack.
Gathering up his few possessions didn’t take more than five minutes. Rats didn’t have a lot, they couldn’t afford it and there wasn’t space for it. Coop had an old, worn duffle bag that he tossed an extra pair of clothes, some meaningful trinkets, and the single picture of his whole family into. His mom had jumped into the core less than a year after the photo was taken, but everyone looked happy at that moment in time. Coop wrapped the picture in his clothing to make sure it didn’t break before joining Hailey in the kitchen.
“Everything good?” she asked, placing a lingering kiss on his lips.
“Once I leave you’re going to head up to Jimmy’s place on eighteen. You rememeber?” You would have thought he’d called her a bitch from the way she recoiled.
“What the fuck, Coop?”
“Don’t ‘what the fuck me’, Hailey. Jimmy’s gonna look after you so be grateful,” he gave her a hard look.
“Jimmy’s a pussy. I’ve got more balls than Jimmy,” she growled, pushing the food away from her.
“Then make Jimmy your bitch, I don’t care,” Coop grabbed the tray and shoveled down the rest of the unappetizing breakfast. “Do it as a favor for me if it’s so hard. You’re both my friends and I would like you to stay alive once I’m gone.”
The statement calmed Hailey down, and even made her eyes tear up. She didn’t shed them though; red puffy eyes made you look like a target. “Fine,” she grumbled. “But he better not think he’s gonna fuck me.”
“You two figure out the arrangements,” Coop would have loved to stick around and see that argument, but that only made him think about the inevitable.
The clock showed it was a quarter till seven; which meant Coop had over four hours before he needed to be at the Civil Administration building. He’d arrive early so he didn’t end up a drooling vegetable in the lobby. Nothing ran on time in the PHA, so it was better to play it safe and live another day.
Coop already had everything he owned packed. He didn’t want to talk with his father again, and he wasn’t going to get the chance. Walter had already left for his duties in the tower, and wouldn’t return until long after Coop was gone. Coop didn’t care; they’d said what needed to be said last night. Coop spent the rest of his time sitting on the couch flicking through the holotable programing. After a bit, Hailey joined him.
He had nothing better to do.