I heard the scream and looked around. Nobody else seemed concerned. People walked up and down the street, nobody looking up. There it was again. “No! Stop! Get off me!”
It was coming from the alleyway. I rushed into the darkness, my eyes taking a moment to adjust after the bright sunlight. He was tall, muscular, and there was a tattoo of an eagle straddling a swastika on his bald scalp. In his free hand, he twirled a knife with a shocking degree of skill.
“Just relax, little peacock, it won’t hurt as–” I barrelled into him, hard. The knife skittered across the pavement, musical as different surfaces of it struck the pavement. He began to rise, and I knew I’d take a beating if I couldn’t get up right away. He was almost up when he slipped, falling again, and I was able to struggle to my feet.
I’d never been in a fight in my life. This kind of thing just didn’t happen, not anymore. This was an age of peace, a renaissance of kindness. But now, we fought. Despite my inexperience, my every blow seemed to hurt him. He doubled over from a punch, he was sent reeling from a shove, and a punch at his face spun him around, slamming him into a wall. He slid down the wall and left a streak of blood, apparently out for the count. I turned to the woman, who hurried to cover herself with the shirt her attacker had torn.
“Ex . . . excuse me . . . thank you! I don’t know what would have happened if . . . you saved me!”
“It’s nothing anybody wouldn’t have done. I just — ” I was silenced as her lips pressed against mine in a fierce kiss. For a moment, my mind was reeling. The adrenaline from the fight, the fear of the knife, the struggle for life, and then the intensity of this kiss. My nerves were buzzing with an intensity I’d never known in my life.
Then she stepped back, blushing fiercely, pulling her clothes back into order as she rushed into the safety of the sunlight. I followed, shielding my eyes against the light.
The streets were deserted. The woman turned into a doorway, completing the stillness. There was a sound behind me, and I turned. Men were sweeping the alleyway. The man I’d fought was gone, nowhere to be found. One man took out a spray bottle and was cleaning the blood off the brick where he’d hit the wall.
“I trust the gentleman is satisfied with his interaction.”
I turned, looking at the small man who seemed to come out of nowhere.
“Rates for a two-actor conflict, hero-and-villain dynamic, will be sixty credits, sir.”
My head still spinning, I shook his hand. The buzz under my skin signified a successful transaction.
“That was indescribable. I can’t . . . I’ve never felt so alive!”
“It is something we hear often sir. I’m glad you are satisfied with your experience.”
“That woman, do you think she would–” I stopped as the man held up his hand.
“I recommend the gentleman wait until he has recovered before considering that course. Many patrons are willing to make binding decisions in the heat of these conflicts. They sometimes regret their choices. The company recommends the gentleman wait twenty-four hours before making any important decisions.”
“I . . . if I come back then . . . ”
“If the gentleman still wishes to meet her tomorrow, sir, I will ask after her interest in the matter. Please come again, sir. Tell your friends. If your associates indicate the gentleman as a reference, we can provide a discount on your next experience.”