Midnight in the Neon City
rating: +18+x

Wednesday, 16/06/2337 The Neon City Borough, Greater NYC, NY -
The first thing that always assailed him when he stepped through into this timeline was the sound. One would think that as technology became more efficient, they'd lose the cacophony of machinery. While that supposition wouldn't be entirely incorrect, automobiles and power plants are mostly silent in this period, what it doesn't account for is the raw clamor of humanity itself.

As Thaddeus pushed through the crowds of the Neon City Market, a part of him longed for a quieter time. The ambient crowd noise around him was filled with the persistent digital jingle of a thousand different floating advertisements. The amplified voices of hawkers and buskers and the flashing strobes of pulsing electronic noise spilled out from the countless bars, bodegas, and gaming parlors that lined the streets. Audio-visual chaos.

He cursed quietly to himself as yet another group of neon-clad kids stumbled free of a bar and directly into his path. With a rueful shake of his head, he took a moment to step aside and scan the crowd around him. For the last several time slips, he'd been certain someone had been following him, but maybe that'd just been professional paranoia.

Satisfied with his anonymity amidst the teeming throng of passers-by, Thad slipped back into the flow and resumed his trek towards the TechBazaar. It was endlessly frustrating, to work on a project only to realize that the components necessary to complete the gadget hadn't been invented yet. In this instance, the chronometer in his latest foray into his endless tinkering with replicating the 442i required the use of a tachyon-sensitive element that hadn't even been theorized yet in the 21st century, much less actually synthesized.

His woolgathering had distracted him, as it often did these days, and he missed the silhouettes of three dark-clad figures slipping into the crowd behind him.


"Two-hundred and fifty thousand creds? Are you for real? This piece of outdated trash is barely worth a hundred-twenty." Thad waved his arms expansively and indicated one of the nearby stalls. "Frank is willing to sell one to me at one eighty-five, and I was expecting you to be more realistic in your expectations. Do I look like I'm one of the Skyliners?" He huffed in pretended indignation.

The reality was the piece itself would be literally priceless back in his original timeline, and the hyper-inflationary prices of 24th-century Neon City were effectively meaningless to a time-traveler. The Temporal Anomalies Department had planned well for their future selves, secreting valuable bonds and annuity accounts in secure locations had guaranteed that their future selves would never find themselves without available cash resources. In all honesty, he could have easily bought his way into the exclusive Skyliner social class several times over.

But it was the principal of the matter. In this era, the novelty device had been used primarily for creating Tachydium for the side-effect of the interaction between the highly radioactive tachydium isotopes and ambient tachyon flux. While highly unstable, the resulting blue-green glow was similar to a relatively safe form of Cherenkov radiation, with the added benefit of creating temporally displaced "ghosts" of objects in and around the projected field.

The device had been discontinued after the intervention of the 24th century SCP Foundation had surreptitiously released documentation that indicated that movement within the field had some very nasty (and false) side effects. Now, no one wanted the things that had once been made in the truckloads, and the devices that hadn't been smashed or crushed in the household waste collection bins had ended up here in the TechBazaar.

"One eighty-five? Frank knows nothing!" The odious little man spluttered at him. "That thieving bastard wouldn't know a Tachydium Imaging Chassis from a Greenfeld Tortion Field generator if it shattered in his hands. At least you know that THIS one is still working!" He pressed the large green button absurdly marked "IMAGINE" on the top of the device for emphasis. The blue-green field instantly sprang to life around them, and the crowd rapidly thinned as the other patrons scrambled to get out of the fairly small glowing field.

"Is that really necessary?" Thad's voice held a note of tired resignation as he glared at the merchant and quickly shut off the device. He glanced quickly about, trying out his best "I'm so sorry!" expression on the disgruntled crowd now all angrily looking his way. "You know what the Consumer Protection Agency said about these things."

"Bah!" the merchant scoffed. "A little ray of light never hurt anyone."

Thaddeus rolled his eyes. "Tell that to Anatoli Bugorski."

"Who?"

"Nevermind. Just give me the damn thing. Two-twenty, and that's a damn sight better than you'll get for this fucking thing, and you know it."

The merchant glared at him for a few moments, then sighed with exaggerated exasperation. "Fine. Two-twenty. But I'm not boxing it up for you."

They glared at each other for a few more moments, then Thad pulled a slender black piece of plastic from his jacket. He waved the credit stick over the merchant's reader, then picked up the tachydium device when the merchant nodded sullenly at him.


Instead of trying to navigate the crowds along the thoroughfare, Thad decided to try his luck in the back alleys behind the TechBazaar. If he had known that three masked assailants were waiting for him to do this exact thing, he probably would have foregone the relative quiet of the back alleys. Opting to avoid the crowd had found him facing the three in the shadows between the impossibly tall 'scrapers of midtown Neon City, and him without backup from an intimidating glare from Burt or Reggie's professional deadliness.

"Fuck." He whispered as the endless stream of invective coursing through his mind escaped in a hiss as he stared across at the three.

Without any word of warning or demand, the masked figures moved towards him in a crouch, and each of them slid out long, wicked-looking blades. "Fuck." He cursed again and the figure to the far-right dashed forward, leading with his knife.

Thad moved faster than his old man's posture would have indicated as he neatly sidestepped the clumsy attack, and he pushed the off-balance attacker into the path of the other two. He didn't stop to watch the results of his action, taking the momentary pause created by their confusion to turn and sprint down the way he'd come.

Before he got very far he cursed again as another assailant stepped into view at the end of the alley. He grimaced and pulled out his Loopy inhaler. He hated using the stuff, preferring the elegance of temporal expressions, but he didn't have much choice. He thought for a moment, the cognition enhancements in his brain calculating the exact dosage he'd need.

Barely three seconds had passed since he'd noticed the fourth attacker, and he lifted the inhaler to his lips and took a brief in drawn breath.


Instead of trying to navigate the crowds along the thoroughfare, Thad decided to try his luck in the back alleys behind the TechBazaar. He shook his head as a brief wave of dizziness washed over him, and he cursed as he pulled a gun from a shoulder holster and fired three quick shots point-blank at the three assailants as they dropped into view.

Two of the shots flew wide, but one of them exploded through the head of the far-right attacker, showering the smooth wall of the 'scraper with splinters of bone and red-gray viscera. Thaddeus took off at a run, barely pausing as he hopped neatly over the spasming corpse and sprinted headlong down the alleyway at full speed.

One of the attackers reacted fast enough to slide the edge of their blade across Thad's ribs as he dashed by. He grunted as the blade cut into his skin, but the biomesh protecting his ribs held long enough to prevent the blade from slipping between them. It did nothing to stop the agony that erupted all along his side as the blade cut deeply into his obliques.

He stumbled and nearly fell, pain lancing up his side. "Fuck this." He thought as he turned blindly into a shadowy alley. The trash here was much thicker, and he was forced to slow down as he navigated around the detritus of a post-modern civilization. The advancement in technology hadn't helped the smell; a trash-filled alleyway smelled pretty much the same whenever it was situated.

One of the attackers spotted him and let out a piercing whistle. Thad turned in time to see the two remaining assailants duck into the alley. He cursed again and raised the pistol, his hand wavering a bit as adrenaline and pain warred with his self-control.

He breathed out and the pistol barked again, several more times. The right attacker grunted in pain as at least one of the slugs slammed into his upper torso. The left slid further to their left, weaving across Thad's firing line.

A blade winked in reflected light, and that was all the warning he got before it slid past his firing hand, it's sharp point catching in the skin of his wrist and digging a deep furrow along his arm. He grimaced in pain and almost dropped his pistol. He refocused to see the attacker bearing down on him, and his perception of time seemed to slow as his cognition implants kicked into high gear.

Once again he found the Loopy inhaler, once again he took the shortest of breaths.


Instead of trying to navigate the crowds along the thoroughfare, Thad decided to try his luck in the back alleys behind the TechBazaar. He shook his head as a brief wave of dizziness washed over him, and he cursed as he pulled a gun from a shoulder holster and fired three quick shots point-blank at the three assailants as they dropped into view.

Two of the shots flew wide, but one of them exploded through the head of the far-right attacker, showering the smooth wall of the 'scraper with splinters of bone and red-gray viscera. Thaddeus turned and took off down the alley away from his attackers, his gun held loosely in his hand.

Firing towards the crowd wasn't going to be the best call. The cops didn't really give a fuck about who fired off what in the back alleys, but firing into a crowd was a big no no. Plus, you know, bystanders.

When the fourth assailant stepped into view at the mouth of the alley, Thad didn't even slow down. Instead he picked up speed and ran straight towards the figure, cutting hard right to try and put the wall of the 'scraper behind the attacker.

The hooded figure anticipated, shifting to catch him, the shining blade slamming hard into Thad's midsection enough to take his breath away. Again, the biomesh saved him from taking too much damage, but the pain was enough to send brilliant pinpricks of light blossoming through his vision.

He gasped and threw his weight to the right, taking the fall for the momentary chance it gave him. His pistol hand lifted, and he pumped two rounds directly into the assailant's chest. The ground came up and hit him hard, knocking the wind out of him. He sprawled there for a moment, eyes locked onto the shocked expression of the bleeding attacker.

"Fu… fu… fuck you!" he hissed between gasps for breath.

The attacker slumped to the ground, and the sounds of the Bazaar began to filter through to Thad's shocked brain. Screams and chaos erupted around him as he pushed himself to his feet, and he had a moment to glance back down the alleyway to see the remaining two assailants skid to a halt.

He shook his head to clear his vision, and he noticed the handle of the blade protruding from his abdomen. Maybe the 'mesh hadn't protected him after all. He tentatively touched the black pommel of the knife, and his abdominal muscles spasmed around the blade as another brilliant blast of pain radiated through him.

All this for a fucking tachydium generator. He patted the big pocket in his jacket, reassured by the lump of metal and plastic. At least this wasn't going to be a total loss. Yet.

He looked up to see the whirling red/blue/red/white lights of the gendarmes flash brilliantly across the top of the bazaar. He cursed again under his breath and slipped the gun into its holster and closed his jacket to try and cover the handle of the blade still lodged in his gut. He fought back the pain rampaging through his body, and he stumbled off into the bazaar.

After a few moments of frantic searching he found it. An open table white enough for contrast. He slumped against it, his breath coming in choking gasps. He'd known someone else had done this, and he'd prayed to the gods he didn't believe in that he wouldn't have to. A groan escaped his tight lips as he reached inside his coat and gathered up some of the blood welling from around the edges of the knife.

He shook for a moment, then quickly began to scrawl the mostly-meaningless symbols of the Expression across the empty counter. It took several more trips back inside his coat, and his hands had begun to shake from the adrenaline dump.

At last, he sighed, focused on the entirety of what he'd written, and… was somewhen else.


Friday, 21/03/2025 Site-17 -
Dr. Anastasakos looked up as Dr. Thaddeus Xyank stepped through the door to the lab. He had a rueful expression on his face as he pulled a smallish dome-like device out from one of the anomalously-voluminous pockets in his jacket. She gasped in shock as his movement caused the front of the jacket to pull open, revealing the protruding handle of the knife.

"What the fuck, Thad?" She rushed over to him in time to steady the reedy doctor as he swayed on his feet.

"I…" he gasped, "I got the fuckin' thing, didn't I?" He grinned ghoulishly at her through a mouthful of blood, then he slumped unconscious to the floor.

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