Chapter I

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1 October, 2099 AD

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A girl stalked along the cold concrete streets, her chunky black heels sure on the slippery footpath, slim legs eating up the distance between the transport station and her small apartment.

Black jeans hugged her toned lower limbs like a second skin, a black wool coat clasped around slim shoulders. Moody black eyes surveyed the foggy streets sharply, her expression guarded as she made her way through throngs of people. Her glossy black hair was cut in a jagged scene style, and reached between her shoulder blades. She didn't have any visible piercings, but a tiny rose tattoo hid behind her ear. She wasn't an oddity in the central city; in fact, if it hadn't been for the dangerous vibes and bad attitude, nobody would have given her a second glance.

Quickly, quickly! Need to get home...

The crowd was thick on the slippery sidewalk, and she wove through the disreputable area with practiced ease. A guy in a ragged grey sweatshirt and sweatpants stepped in her path, his unshaven face twisting into a lecherous smirk. Several of his buddies began moving closer, clearly intending to surround her.

Shit. Not today, please...

"'Ello there miss, you look like you're in hurry."

The look on his face would have scared a lesser person.

She ignored his cronies advancing on her, stepping around him and carrying on. Her manoeuvre failed. A vice grip latched onto her arm and he swung her round, his greasy forehead uncomfortably close to her face.

"I was talking to you, bitch!" he sneered, shuffling closer to intimidate her

She leaned closer to him, averting her face until she was only a few inches away from him. He misread her intentions as that of defeat, and put his arm around her shoulders. A satisfied smirk creased his dirty features, and his pals started sniggering. She bit back the bile rising in her throat.

Fortunately for her, their satisfaction was short lived.

She turned her face slowly to meet his muddy brown eyes, tilting her head coolly.

"This is your one and only warning," she growled. "Leave me the hell alone or I'll make you wish you had."

His eyes widened, registering the switchblade glinting in the folds of her coat, mere millimeters from slotting between his ribs. His right hand jerked a little as he reached for his own knife, but she pricked him with a deft flick of her wrist. He swore and withdrew his hand, stepping back slowly.

"Calm down! I wasn't gonna hurt you," he lied through clenched teeth, eyes burning with anger.

"Good," the girl muttered, and smirked, unable to resist one last jibe. "I'd like to see you try."

She stepped away, her blade quickly concealed in the fold of her coat, eyes locked onto those of her angry assailant. Carrying weapons of any kind was technically illegal in central London, but it was a matter of survival and everyone did. It was risky though, and if the police spied any unusual activity, they'd all be in a cell before the day was out.

And that is not on my agenda.

To make matters worse, the chance of the authorities spotting the telltale glint of a blade were high. A surveillance camera swiveled silently a few meters away, mounted on a wrought iron lamppost. A LED streetlight burned even during the daytime, cutting through the low-lying smog without much success.

She narrowed her eyes at the motley group of thugs, her nose still stinging from the smell of their unwashed bodies. With one backward step she disappeared into the throng behind her, becoming invisible with practiced ease. Her eyes and ears were peeled for any sound of him or his gang as she took a detour on her way home, darting into an alley. Her black hair swung as she vaulted on top of a rusty rubbish bin in one smooth movement. She gripped the metal grating of an external stairwell, perched in the shadows as she scanned the area, wrists aching and fingers throbbing on the frosty railing.

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