Christmas in Zonei Pt. 01

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Warning: This first submission doesn’t have any sex. In fact, it will be a while before we get to sex (there will, eventually, be sex, I promise). This is a dystopia story.

Love to hear what you think.



Chapter One

A gust of bitter wind tore through the desolate streets, whipping tiny ice crystals into funnels of rage. Blackened snow crunched underfoot as Kim hurried down the street, his hands shoved deep into his pockets, his shoulders hunched against the gale. The early December twilight washed away the muted colors of the structures and streets in K-Zonei, leaving shades of gray. Shadows lengthened as the hazy sun cast its last rays.

Kim shivered, not only from the cold. His dark eyes darted around, seeking movement in the shadows. He stayed to the center of the street, wary of each alley and dumpster he passed. Zonei did not usually host the random thugs and roving gangs of angry quents that infested some of the lower zones, but wariness was second nature to Kim, especially when the day darkened into night. He was usually safe within his secure unit by the time the sun went down, but with winter solstice approaching, daylight surrendered early. Unless he went directly home after work, he wouldn’t make it before nightfall.

Zonei was sparsely populated. By the twenty-second century, the middle class had almost ceased to exist, and Zonei was a middle zone. Most of the buildings in the zone had been built during the twentieth century and now stood vacant, their windows broken or boarded, their facades crumbling. Kim liked to imagine what the zone had been like when it was teeming with people, the buildings new and clean, the days warm and hopeful.

He was the only one foolish enough to be out in the deepening twilight and biting cold. His face, the only exposed area of his body, burned with chill. He slit his eyes against the blowing ice and tried to shift his thoughts away from the bitter cold.

He had spent the last of his credits on a used paperback. His conscience railed that he should have spent the money on food, and that he couldn’t afford the charge for light to read by, but he hadn’t been able to resist buying a book. He hated going home to his empty apartment. Sitting alone every night with nothing to do, no one to talk to, was slowly eating him away. He felt like he was crumbling, bit-by-bit, day-by-day … like the ancient buildings in Zonei.

He usually did okay on his own. In the summer he was fine. The light lingered long into the evening and he would sit by the window and lose himself in a book. It was only when the days were short and the holiday season approached, that he began to feel keenly the loneliness of his life. His mother had been gone almost two years now, passing away the day before Christmas. Last year at Christmastime he thought he was going to die of sorrow. He dreaded the holiday this year and wondered briefly if he could ignore it, pretend it was January already.

Noticing something large at the side of the street a little ways ahead, he squinted into the gloom. He couldn’t make it out. Whatever it was, it wasn’t moving.

He considered taking an alternate route home, but a sudden blast of icy wind clawed its way under his coat, ripping away what little warmth he had left in his core. He clenched his jaw to keep his teeth from chattering. His body shivered convulsively, overcome with chill.

The large dark lump on the side of the road was inert. It’s probably a couple big bags of garbage, Kim decided. He kept going.

The closer Kim got to the garbage, the less garbage-like it appeared. Even as he strained his eyes to make out what it was, he kept his awareness of his surroundings. It could be an attractive find set out to lure someone close so that quents could jump him and mug him—or worse. His stomach twisted in apprehension.

As he approached, awareness of what the object was suddenly hit him, taking his breath away.

It’s a man!

Indeed, it was an enormous man. He was absolutely motionless and Kim wondered if he were dead. He started to veer away from the corpse, but then it occurred to him that if the person wasn’t dead, and wasn’t trying to lure him into a trap, he could be hurt. In any case with the temperatures well below freezing and plummeting, the man would be dead before morning if he didn’t seek shelter.

Kim’s brisk walk came to an abrupt halt as he stopped to deliberate.

Make up your mind, Kim! Standing here being a perfect target is the worst possible thing you can do.

Kim knew that if he gave the man a wide berth and went directly home, he’d stress over him all night—likely feel guilty for days. He took a few steps closer to the man. Even lying there in a crumpled heap, Kim could tell the man was huge—of gargantuan proportions.

Then Kim realized that there was something about him that looked familiar. Maintaining a good distance, he picked his way carefully to the other side of the man so he could see his face. His breath casino oyna caught in his throat as he recognized the man.

He had seen him before. He was an addict who hung out on the street in Zonem. Kim had first noticed him about six month’s earlier and had seen him often since, when he dared to venture into Zonem to buy groceries. The man was usually slouched against a building, bottle in hand, sometimes smoking an opisig, his eyes red enough to bleed. Kim had also seen him staggering down the street, weaving back and forth, stumbling into obstacles. He’d always wondered what drove a man like that to throw his life away.

In Kim’s eyes, the man was perfect, at least physically. He was everything Kim was not. He was the largest man Kim had ever seen, standing more than two meters tall. His shoulders were as wide as Kim was tall. His coloring was light. His blond hair had been trimmed in a very short, military style when Kim had first seen him, but he hadn’t cut it in six months—he probably hadn’t even washed it in almost that long. It hung in limp, filthy tendrils around his shoulders. His gray-blue eyes might have been piercing if they were not clouded with drink and drugs. His cheekbones were high, his nose was aquiline, and from what Kim could tell, under his tangle of dirty beard, his jaw was square and manly. He could have been a movie actor, although his great stature might have precluded a leading role.

When Kim had first seen him, the man was not as shabby as he now appeared. His clothes were expensive, expertly tailored to his fit his large frame. Now his fine wool trousers were frayed to shreds at the hem, there was a tear in his overcoat along the shoulder seam, and his once-white shirt was gray and spotted.

Every time Kim had seen him, his heart had gone to his throat. Even in his drunken stupor, the man had an aura of incredible sadness about him, as if he’d lost all hope. Seeing him always made Kim curiously melancholy.

Now Kim stared at him with wide eyes, trying to determine if he were still alive. He could not tell if his massive chest rose and fell under his bulky coat. As Kim eased closer to the comatose man, the stench coming off of him almost made him gag.

The man’s color wasn’t ashen, Kim observed; his nose was too red. His lips were horribly chapped. Noticing that both his hands were stuffed into his pockets, Kim dared to move even closer.

I need to figure out if he’s alive, and if he is, get him out of this wind. Kim had been so distracted by the man that he’d forgotten about the biting cold, but now he realized he was shivering violently, and in spite of his knit gloves, he could no longer feel his fingers.

He crept up to the man and crouched in the snow next to him, his heart pounding in his chest. He could kill me with one blow, Kim thought. He pulled off a glove and reached out slowly to hold his fingers in front of the man’s mouth and nose. Was there a ghost of breath? As the wind died down briefly, he felt the warmth of the man’s exhalation touch his hand.

He’s alive! Kim almost jumped back in fear, but steeled himself. The man was obviously sound asleep, perhaps even unconscious.

“Sir!” Kim’s voice came out a hoarse whisper. The man did not respond.

“Sir!” Kim tried a little louder with like result.

What if I can’t wake him up? I can’t possibly drag him anywhere, he’s too big. And there was no calling for emergency help without credits. Kim knew he couldn’t afford even a phone consultation with a doctor, and judging from the state of the man before him, he had no credits either. He slipped his glove back over frozen fingers while he pondered what to do.

Waking the man seemed his only choice. He pushed hard on the giant’s shoulder and yelled, “Sir! Wake up!”

Quicker than thought, the man grabbed Kim’s wrist in a painful grip as his eyes flew open then narrowed to slits.

Kim let out a squeal of fright. Oh shit!

“What?” The man’s voice was a growl, sounding more animal than human.

Kim heard a whimper come out of his mouth and cursed himself for cowardice. Fighting to control his voice, he gasped, “S … Sir … you need to get out of the cold. You’ll d … die here tonight.” Kim wasn’t sure whether he was stuttering from fright or chill.

The man let go of Kim’s wrist. Obviously deciding that the tiny man was no threat to him, he closed his eyes again with a sigh. “Then let me die,” he whispered.

Kim’s chest was suddenly tight and aching. “I … I can’t just let you die, Sir. Please.”

There was no response from the man.

“Sir,” Kim tried again, “let me help you get yourself home.”

“No home. No more.” The man’s words were almost inaudible. “Nothing.” The last word sounded so desolate that Kim found his eyes were suddenly blurry.

He glanced around. It was now almost fully dark. The streetlights had come on, but only one in three functioned, and their meager light did little to dispel the encroaching darkness.

What the hell do I do? Surely slot oyna there’s someone he can call.

Boldly Kim reached over and gently pulled up the man’s sleeve to expose his intel, then he gasped in shock at the bare wrist. “What happened to your intel?” The skin was raw and red in a half-inch wide circle around his wrist, just where his intel should have been.

The man blinked his eyes open and stared at his wrist, as if he was just now realizing his intel was missing. Then a frown darkened his face. “It’s gone,” he slurred. “Stolen … a few days ago, I think.”

Hell! The hair on Kim’s neck stood on end. “You’re lucky you weren’t killed when they took it.”

“Don’t know if I’d call that lucky. But it makes no sense for them to steal it. Can’t do nothing with it. N’if they try they’ll get a nasty shock.”

“But how … how do you do anything without it? I mean…” Kim trailed off. He had heard that some of the people in the lower zones didn’t have intels, but he couldn’t imagine life without one. The intel was his identification, allowed him to move between approved zones, gave him access to his credit, connected him to the infonet, and provided a host utilities.

The big man closed his eyes, seeming to sink immediately back into a heavy sleep.

Oh, no you don’t. If you don’t get up and moving soon, we’ll both freeze to death. The numbing cold gave Kim courage he otherwise might not have had. He grabbed the man’s wrist and tugged hard. “Come on. Sit up.” It was like trying to move a mountain.

“Huh?” The man’s eyes fluttered but he made no move either to sit up or to push Kim away.

Kim tugged again as hard as he could. “Sit up!” he demanded.

The man groaned and, surprisingly, complied with Kim’s request. Not letting go of his wrist, Kim scrambled to his feet. Still sitting, the man was almost eye-to-eye with him.

“My name’s Kim. What’s yours?”

“Raeden,” came the hoarse response. The man peered at Kim with unfocused eyes. “Wha’s going on?” he slurred.

“You’re coming home with me.” Kim shocked himself with this statement, but then he realized there was no place else to take him. In spite of his great size, Raeden did not seem like a danger to him, at least not immediately.

“No, jus’ let me sleep.” Raeden looked like he was about to sink back onto the ground and Kim used his leverage to yank on his arm, keeping him upright. “No. You need to stand up. Now!” Kim commanded.

The man looked at him blankly.

“Come on! Get on your feet, big man!” Kim encouraged.

With another loud groan, the man gathered his great bulk and launched himself to his feet, staggering to catch his balance.

Kim dropped his wrist and scrambled back a few paces, watching the man warily.

Raeden swayed on his feet while he swung his head around as if he were trying to figure out where he was.

“Come on!” Gathering the remnants of his courage, Kim grabbed Raeden’s sleeve again and tugged. “This way.”

Raeden stumbled after him, weaving back and forth on the sidewalk. He staggered and almost fell when they stepped off the curb, and Kim quickly dropped his hold to keep from getting pulled off balance himself.

The man continued to follow him for a short way, even without his touch. Finally he stumbled to a halt, leaning heavily against the side of a building.

“Wh … where are we going?” he slurred.

“Just up there.” Kim pointed to a concrete slab monstrosity a half-block up the street. Built in the latter half of the twentieth century, its façade was stained with rust. It dripped from the narrow steel window casings, like blood oozing down the drab gray walls. It was seven stories of sameness, and in Kim’s opinion, it was ugly as sin. But it had a modern security system, none of the windows were broken, and the plumbing actually worked.

Now that home was in sight, Kim’s shivers became violent, as if his mind had finally allowed him to fully feel the biting cold.

The derelict still leaned against the building, his eyes unfocused. He looked like he was ready to slide back down the wall and succumb to sleep again.

“No, we must hurry,” Kim said, grabbing Raeden’s sleeve and tugging. He felt like he was treating the man as if he was a small child, but it seemed to work. Raeden staggered after him, and shortly, he was urging him up the few steps to the front door of his building.

The original glass doors had long since been replaced with heavy steel. All of the windows on the first floor, which was used only for storage, had been covered with sheet metal, welded securely to the window frames. Even the windows on the second and third floors were secured with steel bars.

Kim stepped up to the scanner, pulled off his glove, and placed his frozen right hand on the cold plate. He looked directly into the optical scan aperture on the wall above his head, trying not to blink. He heard the click of the door mechanism release and he quickly pushed the door open.

“Come on,” canlı casino siteleri he urged his large companion. The big man stumbled past him into the gloom and Kim hurried to follow, anxious to be out of the bitter wind.

The door swung shut and Kim heard the locking mechanism engage. A slowly brightening glow from high overhead lit the dark anteroom. Once he was in an enclosed space with Raeden, the stench coming off the big man was almost overwhelming: vomit and rancid piss. Kim wondered once again how he could have let himself get into such a state.

“Kim Takemoto and one other,” said a female voice with the flat inflection of a machine. “Please state name and purpose of other.”

Oh hell! He’s not going to be able to get past security with no intel. Kim cursed himself for not thinking of that. He wondered how security would remove Raeden once they discovered he was noncompliant and how much trouble he would be in for attempting to bring a derelict into his building.

“Raeden Smith. I am a guest,” Raeden replied with remarkable clarity. He seemed relaxed and confident.

How can he be so calm? He’s probably so stoned that he’s forgotten he doesn’t have an intel, Kim thought. His stomach roiled as his mind flashed through various scenarios, none of them good.

“Raeden Smith, place your left wrist in the reader,” the voice commanded.

Kim opened his mouth to argue with the security system, to try to get out of this mess before Raeden was discovered, but he hadn’t yet figured out what to say when Raeden stepped up to the reader and placed his bare hand into it. Then he looked at the security camera and a cocky smile spread across his face.

Kim’s heart lurched. The man was fucking insane. He was also insanely gorgeous.

“Raeden Smith, welcome to Shangri-La,” the voice intoned.

Kim’s jaw dropped open. What the hell? He has no intel. How did he do that?

Raeden stepped away from the scanner and looked at Kim expectantly. Kim blinked up at him, still processing the fact that Raeden seemed to have been approved by the security system … without an intel!

“Kim Takemoto, please place your left wrist in the reader,” the female voice commanded.

Kim moved up to scanner and placed his hand in it.

“Welcome home, Kim,” the emotionless voice said.

The lock on the inner door released and Kim scurried through it.

Raeden followed him into the dim hallway. Their breath still came out in white puffs; the building was not heated.

“How … how did you get past security?” Kim asked.

Raeden looked confused for a moment, then he let out a short snort. “Your security system is not. Secure, that is. The fingerprint and optical scanners at the front door are probably the only real security you have, if both of those are even working. The rest of your security is fake. It’s actually quite common for landlords to do that. It’s expensive to maintain an intel reader and access to the infonet.

Kim’s mouth gaped open as he stared at Raeden. “Fake?” he repeated. “That’s outrageous! They can’t do that. We pay plenty extra for security.”

“So you’re just now figuring out this place isn’t really Shangri-La?” Raeden asked with a smirk.

Kim rolled his eyes. He was surprised Raeden knew what Shangri-La meant, the reference was a bit obscure. The building he lived in used to be a hotel, and the owners had retained the original name. “Shangri-La indeed. More like Hades,” he grumbled.

“Or Siberia,” Raeden suggested, stuffing his purple hands back into his pockets.

“I don’t know what the hell I’m paying for,” Kim muttered as he turned and started down the hallway. “Obviously not asthetics or heat. I thought I was paying for security, but I guess not that either.”

“Where we goin’?” Raeden asked as he started to follow. “We gonna smoke opisigs?”

“No. I’m just giving you a place to sleep where you won’t freeze to death overnight.”

“Don’ wanna sleep. I need a drink.”

Kim decided not to answer that. Raeden was following him gamely enough and he seemed to be less drunk than he was before. He wanted to get him quickly ensconced in his unit before any of his neighbors saw them and became angry that he had brought a dangerous derelict into the building. Raeden might be able to fool a machine, but anyone who got close enough to smell him would know that he was a bad security risk.

Kim led his charge past the bank of elevators, which hadn’t functioned in decades, and into a narrow stairwell. He trotted up the steps, hoping the brief spurt of exercise would warm him.

At the first landing he turned to see Raeden standing at the foot of the stairs, holding onto the railing, swaying, and squinting at him blearily. “Where we goin?” he asked again.

“To my unit. Come on!” Kim tried to sound encouraging, but his gut swam with butterflies. Am I really bringing this huge man into my home? He briefly considered abandoning him at the base of the stairs. If he passed out there, he probably wouldn’t freeze to death. But if his landlord found out that he had let someone in and then let him wander free in the hallways, he would be evicted for sure. And it would be just his luck to have the security cameras actually functioning.

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