[an/ Sorry I've been AWOL/MIA for so long, guys! Massive server complications
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and a fluctuating work schedule are mostly to blame...but I haven't let that
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much, and Happy Respected Holidays!/an]
A sharp pounding on the door of her studio apartment rattled Saturday Kress into
the waking world. Dark eyes snapped open and cast a befuddled glance at her digital
alarm clock on the floor. Seven-thirty a.m. [i/What the-?/i]
"Police!" A booming authoritarian voice barked from the hallway. "There's a
fire two floors down, Miss - we're evacuating the building!"
[i/Craptacular. At least this wasn't about parking tickets /i]. Her brain remarked
with a sarcastic mental yawn. A split second spent wondering if she was actually awake,
then in a zero to adrenalin burst she threw off her flannel blanket and toppled to the
floor, scrawny frame clad in a black t-shirt and jeans from the night before. Making a
dive for her sneakers as her other hand checked her back pocket for her drivers license
and debit card - still there, thankfully - the young woman threw on shoes, snatched the
keys off her desk, and wrenched open the door.
Standing at the threshold, a uniformed policeman with a military buzzcut stepped
back with a minor blink. "You might want to take the stairwell." He suggested, his fresh-
out-of-the academy face held traces of near sympathy. "Hell of a way to wake up, I'm
With a nod, Saturday sprinted toward the stairwell, holding her breath as thick,
grey funnels of smoke billowed upward through the dank, musty corridor, overriding
its usual odors of stale alcohol and cigarettes. Launching her frame down flight after
flight with all the energy her inner child could muster, her brain mentally noted that she
might be homeless before the day was out. [i/Why'd I have to pick a place on the fifth freakin' floor of this dive? Bloody Hell./i] The Hidden Grove Apartments were a far cry
from Nirvana, but rent was cheap and no one bothered you if you kept your doors bolted securely enough. Chateau ghetto, as it were. Still, it was home, her sanctuary...until five minutes ago.
Vaulting down the final flight of stairs to ground level, her ears picked up frantic yells of mothers urging their children to hurry up, gang members telling their peeps to
'flush their shit and bounce', university exchange students wailing in Japanese, Italian
and Mexican. Pumping leg muscles like a club kid on the run from a police raid, Saturday
all but tore the rusted metal door to the outside off its hinges and raced out into the
misty, grime choked air of the parking lot.
Flashing red white and blue sirens, exhaust fumes , police cars everywhere. Two Templar City ambulances, one fire truck. Scores of clustered residents still clad in their pajamas and bathrobes wandered absently across paved asphalt in their slippers, faces
aged ten years in worry. A diverse sea of skin tones and generations, united by perils of
low income, forced to dwell in shanty tenements. Sputtering bitter breath from her lungs,
the twenty-seven-year-old cab and limo driver steadied herself against a concrete bench, staving off a mild lightheaded sensation with slow deep breaths.
[i/I so need a cigarette to deal/i] Saturday decided, ambling with numbed steps toward her '05 washed-out yellow Crown Victoria taxicab. Patting the faded metal hood
of the car, all hers as of eighteen months ago, when she'd christened it with the nickname CrazyHorse. Its rebulit engine was primed, capable of two-hundred-sixty-five horsepow-
er, plus perks like bullet-resistant glass and leak-resistant tires, thanks to the wonders of twenty-first century technology and the street smart mechanic at the Citizen Cab shop
who'd put it all together -[i/At least the remnants of my college tuition went to good use,
seeing's from the looks this is my new home for now. /i]
With a quick turn of the key, she slid the front door open, gave a slight stretch of
sore muscles, and slid into the drivers seat. The blue vinyl gave a dull creak as she reach-
ed over to the glove box, filtered her way through a minor sea of paper receipts and dried
up pens, until with a relieved gasp her fingers closed upon a celophane-covered soft pack
of American Spirits, seven left. Extracting a cigarette, Saturday put the filter to her lips, stuck the keys in the ignition and cranked the engine. With a Draconian roar, the vehicle
erupted to life, stereo speakers blaring out the remix of a Hindi raga melody belted over
the airwaves of WKMX, Templar University's indie college radio station. Digging furiously
into the front pocket of her jeans, Saturday scavenged out a small black lighter, flicked it
to her cigarette, cracked open a window and gathered together the Citizen Cab paperwork.
A bit earlier than her usual starting shift, but such was the beauty of independant contract work - you lived and breathed your own hours, through hell and merciful tips both.
Jabbing the online systems button keyed to the dispatch radio, she winced as sharp crackles of static assaulted her ears. Pressing a button to her left, the windows slid down
with a minor hum. Two and a half years she'd been with the company, with a daily/nightly agenda ranging from assisting senior citizens and the disabled to the hospital ER, rushing
high-paying corporates to the airport, and picking up bar-hopping frat boys and club kids.
Not the most high-paying job in the world, but it certainly wasn't boring.
With a drag of nictotene, Saturday adjusted the rearview mirror and made a face
at her reflection. Medusian mane of dark curls strewn rakishly about, her Romany facial structure tired and worn - screw it, she'd been in worse states, she figured, with another
sharp puff of tobacco into her lungs. Glancing out at the surrounding chaotic flurry of emergency vehicles and displaced tenants, she heaved a resigned sigh from her ribcage
and picked up the automated dispatch microphone.
"Cab 64....Templar City East...Good Morning."