“Yes. In the slums? Do we really have to go after this kid? It’s been three months. Let’s tell his mother he’s safe, and let’s get back to more important work, Carr. He’s harmless,” Briggs rolled his eyes as he casually changed the channels on his television set. He sat comfortably in his lift-o-chair in his apartment on Layer Seven.
“Adams wants this kid, so we are going to get him. S-Classers are not allowed to run away without consequence! What part of that is difficult to understand, Agent?” Carr snarled. “Get down here, now!”
Briggs and Carr travelled to Layer Six via City-State’s intricate elevator system. Both agents stepped into Elevator 57 – a one way stop to the slums of Layer Six.
“My undercover officer spotted Hiro playing the piano at a sleaze joint called The Shifty Star. Ever hear of it, Briggs?” asked Carr with a condescending smirk.
“No,” answered Briggs. He was highly irritated. The elevator descended.
“Sounds like your kind of place…” Carr blurted sarcastically.
Briggs interrupted, “What are you going to do with Hiro if you find him?”
“I’m going to deliver him to Adams. After that, Adams will deal with that stupid kid.” Carr straightened his navy blue tie and adjusted the lapel on his suit jacket. City-State’s Seven Point Star pin rested on his neatly ironed collar. He grinned.
“Do you not care about this boy? Adams is heartless. Every day in that engineering school would be a death sentence to that boy and his mother,” Briggs warned. Carr only cared about prestige and status. This is the reason Adams admired him. Plus, someone had to do the bureaucrat’s dirty work.
The elevator stopped. “Let’s go,” Carr dictated.
Briggs and Carr exited Elevator 57 and activated their MediPalms. This section of Layer Six seemed unbearable, desolate, and unlivable. They walked for ten minutes, and Carr’s MediPalm blinked blue.
“The bar is on the left,” he indicated.
Briggs heard the piano. It was the same song he heard when he visited Hiro’s family – the day he delivered the new MediPalm and the acceptance letter. “How could I have been so cold that day?” he pondered silently. “He just wanted the music school…”
“Let’s go, Briggs,” Carr ran ahead to The Shifty Star. Briggs reluctantly followed.
Carr met the undercover officer at the door. Just as the officer indicated, Hiro was situated at the front of the room playing the piano. The bar was packed; they all came to see the young prodigy.
Briggs and Carr entered the bar. Carr trekked ahead to the stage. The music enveloped Briggs. He stood motionless and closed his eyes. Hiro’s talent superseded any musician in City-State’s seedy Entertainment District.
As the song climaxed, Hiro looked up to see movement in the crowd. With his fingers still sliding across the keys, he spied a man making his way through the crowd. Hiro quickly looked over his right shoulder. He identified another man as Briggs – the man who came to claim him the day after his mother’s birthday.
Carr closed in on the boy. Hiro’s eyes widened. With one swift motion, he finished the piece. The crowd cheered. Briggs opened his eyes. Hiro stood up, bowed, and ran to the office space in the back of the bar.
“Briggs!” screamed Carr as he stumbled over the piano’s front right leg. He just missed Hiro as the boy dodged the agent’s grip and tripped on the stage. The crowd hissed. Briggs hurried to the stage.
Holly was behind the bar. She witnessed Hiro running from someone, and made her way to the back office. “Hey! Are you okay?”
“I have to get out of here!” Hiro wailed. They’re here! Please get me out of here!”
“Okay, okay… Let me…” Holly handed Hiro his backpack and shifted her weight. She met Carr face to face.
“Look, lady, get out of the way! I need that kid,” Carr demanded.
“No!” Holly slapped Carr across the face. As Carr shook his head, Hiro quickly slid past him. He ran through the busy crowd and out the door.
As Briggs approached Carr, he noticed a large red mark on his left cheek. Briggs grinned at Holly and grabbed Carr’s shoulders. “Come on, I think he left the building.”
As Carr bolted toward the front entrance, Briggs took one last look at Holly, winked, and ran after his partner.
The two agents disappeared into the night in search for Hiro.
Carr’s MediPalm buzzed yellow with an alert. It was Adams: “He’s on the rooftop of the Dollar and Dime Store on Forty-Fifth Street. That damn kid finally turned on his MediPalm. Get him!”
“Let’s go,” Carr grunted.
Briggs hesitated. “Leave him alone. Officer Mays just called in a huge drug bust. That unit needs back up…”
Carr forcefully interrupted, “Shut up! Let’s get to the roof top! Adams is gonna get his prize!”
“Are you kidding?” Briggs was appalled. Carr sprinted to the Dollar and Dime; Briggs frantically followed.
Briggs and Carr crept around the corner of the general store. Layer Six’s underground sky offered no natural light. The artificial lights revealed Hiro sitting on the rooftop. The boy was curled up in a ball with a sweatshirt covering his legs. Alone and frightened, he quietly sobbed as the neon lights glowed on his small frame. Briggs’s heart sank.
Carr unlatched his gun and pointed it at Hiro. Unaware of the two agents, Hiro sat calmly on the roof.
“What the hell are you doing?” Briggs loudly asked, fully aware of his loud outburst.
Hiro spastically glanced at ground below. In the faint darkness, he observed the two agents, and one had a gun trained on him. Hiro stood on the roof and placed his hands above his head.
“Yes… come down peacefully, boy,” Carr viciously directed.
“Yes, sir,” obeyed the young teenager.
Briggs lost control. “Really? He’s just a boy! He’s not dangerous!” he screamed. “How can you live with yourself knowing that you are hunting an innocent child?”
“Shut up, Briggs! If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were rooting for this delinquent!” scolded Carr.
Carr’s posture changed. He became psychotic as well as sadistic. He began to pull the trigger.
Briggs gasped. He dived at the weapon; Carr’s hands firmly held the gun. In a split second, Briggs diverted a round of gunfire away from Hiro. The bullets disappeared into the dim, dark sky.
“What the hell are you doing? You can’t kill him!” Briggs violently screamed. Carr clenched his gun.
In a swift reaction, Carr whipped his gun around and aimed it in Briggs’s face. Hiro snatched his backpack and scurried off the roof.
“What are you gonna do to stop me, Briggs? These S-Classers deserve it! They keep running out on us – going Illegal!” Carr shrilled. His eyes burned with hate. He spit in his partner’s face and shifted his body to locate Hiro.
“You are a disgrace to the force! Go to hell!” Briggs shouted. In a split second, he seized Carr’s gun by its small barrel and pulled it to the ground. When the gun was pointed downwards, Briggs kicked Carr in the groin. Carr grunted in pain as he fell to the ground.
Hiro ran from the back of the building to the younger agent. “Stay back!” indicated Briggs.
As Carr rolled over, he unsteadily pointed the gun at Briggs. It fired. Briggs gripped his left knee.
“No!” wailed Hiro. At this point, he knew his ally.
With pain streaming through his leg, Briggs attacked Carr. Briggs snatched the gun from Carr’s thick grip and aimed it at his chest.
As Carr reached for his weapon, it fired, and the agent fell back. He lay motionless on the ground.
Hiro’s jaw dropped. He rushed to Briggs. “Are you okay? Let me help you!” the boy pleaded.
Briggs clutched his bloody knee, moaning in pain. “Hand me his MediPalm. It’s in his back pocket.”
Hiro retrieved Carr’s MediPalm. As he handed it to Briggs, it flashed red: “That boy is mine. His mother is going to pay!”
Tears streamed from Hiro’s blood red eyes. “My mother…”
Briggs whispered, “It’s gonna be okay. I will take care of this. I want you to go find Chad Alexander. Go ask for him at the bar. He’s an S-Classer who went Illegal. He can help you. Now go… and turn off your MediPalm.”
Hiro nodded. As he picked up his backpack, Briggs caught his loose shirt tail.
“Let me know that you are alright,” Briggs smiled.
Hiro returned a smile to the agent. As Hiro ran from the scene, he heard Briggs’s voice for the last time: “I have an officer down. I am near Forty-Fifth and…”
Briggs’s MediPalm chimed. Three weeks passed since Carr’s death and Hiro’s escape. With the MediPalm’s shrill noise, Briggs grew nervous – the last few weeks proved to be emotionally draining at the Labor Union and at home. He only assumed the boy and his mother were safe.
The MediPalm chimed again, and it buzzed with urgency. Briggs made his way from the kitchen to the living area. He muted the television, and he lightly tapped the screen. An expected voice was absent – there was only music.
It was that lovely, powerful song, “My Light.” The magical piece transported the agent to the peak of a mountain. The air was fresh, and the bright sun warmed his face. Far below him was City-State and all its dark, evil ideologies and ethics. In this moment, Briggs was pure and innocent. He happily sighed.
The boy’s song ended. Briggs returned to reality. And in this moment, he knew Hiro was safe.
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