Rising Star

by Thomas McDaniel

      “Filthy trash. Street patrol really oughta do something about urchins like you.”

      I didn’t recognize the man sneering at me as he walked by. He seemed angry at my very existence. I had made no effort to engage with him or ask for his help. My fingers were frozen to the bone, my stomach consuming itself for lack of any food, but I knew better than to open my mouth to hope on the kindness of strangers.

      The few times I’d approached the city walls, I was met with enough hostility to purge myself of thoughts of leaving. I had no memory of entering the city in the first place. Perhaps I had always been here, perhaps not.

      It had been like this as far back as I was capable of remembering. I can’t seem to recall memories outside of the place called MemCor City. When I could fall asleep, flashes of brightly lit facilities and dusty wastelands invaded my dreams but never anything concrete I could hold onto. It hardly mattered if there was a time before these unforgiving streets. It didn’t change the cruelty of the people.

      “Hassling the fine citizens of my town again?”

      I looked up into the cold visor of the MemCor agent looming over me. I didn’t know the man, but

he’d come around enough that I recognized his voice. I’d overheard other agents call him Lorren when they fought to pull him off of me, but I knew better than to be so bold as to say the name with my own lips.

      “N-no sir…” I managed, barely above a whisper, my eyes darting to the side.

      “Excuse me?” Lorren demanded. “You better look at me when you answer.”

      “No sir,” I answered slightly louder, staring back into the glistening visor.

      “Why do you have to lie to me?” Lorren asked, pulling his gloves off and tucking them into his pants at the small of his back. “It’s bad enough I have to field complaints about you all day but lying…I just can’t let that slide.”

      “I’m…not lying,” I countered.

      “You think you can talk back to me like that?” Lorren challenged, grabbing the front of my tattered shirt. He lifted me up until my feet hung off the ground so I was level with the helmet. “Don’t you ever try that again.”

      I suppressed a pained groan as Lorren extended his arm, slamming me into the brick wall I’d just been sitting up against. Pain ran through me, blurring my vision and taking what little strength I had left. We’d