DONOR PART 2: THE JEWELED CITY
Available October 11th, 2013
Shreya travels to New York to decipher the book of scrolls. But New York, New York, the City that Never Sleeps is also a mecca for the Undying. Will she get lost in the crowds or stand out and be devoured for the secrets she holds in her blood.
The Jeweled City is available at <Amazon> and Amazon KDP Select.
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~ Costume Jewelry Sparkles Too ~
I’ve survived being within blocks of a lightning strike that had everything to do with Shadows. I’ve survived being attacked by Cyborg thugs. I’ve even survived being taken out by a newbie running her first cross-country practice. Barely.
I may not survive Times Square.
I’m like the kid who’s taken too many turns on the merry-go-round and is now being asked to run an obstacle course with lights flashing in her eyes. I may throw up any minute.
New Yorkers sense this and avoid me, while still managing to act as if I don’t exist.
The glimpses I had of New York City while I was riding the train from New Jersey showed me a glittering city, and I expected to find the subway lined with jewels when I arrived. Instead I found the usual white walls and gray-metal cleaning bots dominating the terminals and platforms. So when I climbed the stairs from the underground station to stand at street level, I wasn’t prepared for what I would see or hear.
Times Square is the epitome of what my history teacher calls the virtual media age. The ground, sky, and every free surface on every building and sidewalk are polluted with moving images. There are holograms, skygrams, floorgrams, signs, videoboards, 2D and 3D screens, and lasers selling five things—entertainment, food, clothes, blood donations, and politics. I don’t count sex because, as Mama would say, sex is used to sell everything else. And I usually add everything but honesty.
As if my eyes aren’t having a hard enough time adjusting, every one of those ads is talking and making music all at once. Between the sights and sounds, I’ve never felt so claustrophobic in such an open space in my entire life.
My mind can’t decide what’s up or down. My stomach’s saying decide soon or what’s down will be thrown up.
As I force myself to focus on the city’s dais riders, I breathe deeply and count to one hundred. Above all the hovics and cars, but below the sky ads, are the people who have licenses to fly daises in the city. The dais riders swoop and soar on jeweled, colored boards. Yes, like all the advertisements, they’re moving too, but it’s a reality my mind can accept without spinning.
From what I know, they’re mostly runners licensed by New York City. They circle and glide, grabbing and delivering their packages like iridescent birds tending multiple nests.
Even after my stomach has settled, I stand there staring. I realize I’ve stayed too long when a rider touches down beside me.
“Want a ride?” asks a boy wearing a helmet with gears over his eyes. His oval board is less than a meter long and a quarter of that wide. Balancing on air, centimeters above the ground, he points at a tiny space on the dais in front of him.
Standing where he’s pointing would be too close for my comfort. Not to mention my stomach wants to hurl at the thought of movement.
I’m surprised I can hear him over all the advertisements. But then I realize even though they’re drowning out the rest of the sounds from the city, there’s some sort of volume filter or haze on each one that makes them all blend until you focus on just one. Combined, they’re just loud enough to be background noise or the distant murmur of too many voices and music.
“You’ll get a tour of the Jeweled City from above,” he adds. “And it’s practically free.”
“Wha—?” I answer stupidly. Then I realize he means practically as in it will cost me.
“Yes or no.” He’s staring at an approaching police officer. “No charge.”
That’s when I realize the gears over his eyes aren’t attached to his helmet. They’re attached to him. He has cybertech eyes for enhanced vision and anti-collision radar.
Despite force shields, mid-air collisions on daises are even deadlier than in hovics. The tech eyes help with his job, and they help him notice awestruck girls staring at the riders in the sky. But from the way he’s glancing at the cop, I would guess the runner’s license displayed on the front of his messenger bag doesn’t include passengers. “Come on, Pigtails, yes or no?”
He has all sorts of lights that flash in sync to the lights on his dais—he’s truly plugged in. I hadn’t noticed because there’s so much to the helmets themselves. Also, strands of his red hair are peeking out from under his helmet. Which explains why his skin is too pale to show the gray.
The puzzle cube explained why the Undying have so many allergies. The flesh of an Undying is infected with two types of microbes—the microbes that eat their flesh, making them rot, and those that keep their flesh together and working. The latter gives them their Undying abilities. Those microbes need the energy stored in blood and are susceptible to silver, with its anti-microbial properties. In Cyborgs, the microbes also crystallize flesh, stopping it from rotting but turning it gray.
“Not good enough for you, am I, Human?” His lips twist into a sneer. “Gotta soar.” He takes off, riding fast. Two seconds later he’s up in the sky, flipping the officer the bird.
Unfortunately, the officer is coming toward me. I try to act calm and walk slowly away.
“Stop.” The booming voice tells me two things—the police officer has a cybertech-enhanced voice, and he’s definitely a Cyborg. I hope not the kind that has facial recognition gear. The kind of gear that can match even a disguised face to one on an arrest warrant. Will the glasses and thick eyebrows be enough to save me?
Or is this it? Is this how I finally get caught? Not because I did something stupid, but because some Cyborg kid looking to make an extra cred approached me, out of all the people on this street.
Actually, this is my fault, isn’t it? Stupid me. I shouldn’t have stopped to stare. A shuddering breath rattles through me. What do I do now?
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