The Damned
*
Prelude



Thin gravel crunched dully under the flat bottom of a worn pair of dirtied sneakers, the hood of an equally worn black parka pulled firmly about her face, obscuring features from view as her dusty white gloves hid her hands. The sky was overcast, the kind of hovering misty grey that caused the precious few others out on the streets to hurry even more so than usual, finishing their day at the markets and trying to get home before the storm broke. She had no time to dawdle with them, or strike up conversation with the occasional harried mother she saw, like she normally would. Turning a corner and avoiding a rather large crack in the sidewalk, she ducked into a small doorway, worn soles of her shoes slapping faintly against slightly chipped, but varnished wood floors. An elderly man, his stature frail and his movements shaky, glanced warily at her.

"Hello," she spoke smoothly, her husky voice carrying through the small downstairs room. "I am the one who called you earlier. I need to know if you have the mini-disks yet."

The elderly man nodded slowly, grasping his cane in one wrinkled hand and achingly hefting himself up, hobbling over to a faded cookie jar. He lifted the china container and shuffled back to the off-balance table he had been sitting at, setting it down gingerly. "Much information found," he said in a soft, rasping voice. "Many mini-disks - is good?"

Unseen by his eyes, a small smile flickered on her lips. "Is good," she agreed, throwing back the hood of her parka and unzipping the parka itself, revealing a simple black sweater fitted over the hem of her black slacks. "I need you to help me fill these pockets," she continued, tossing the parka onto the table, deftly opening the pockets and flipping the cookie jar's lid up, moving quickly to fill the pockets with the thumb-sized green squares, within each being a somewhat smaller CD filled with data that she desperately needed.

"Your skin," the old man said reverently, reaching out to touch her brown cheek. "Seen not dark skin in years many," he continued in the same reverent tone, his neo-EngJap poor. It was probable that he had been raised as a slave in the Temples, thusly using a completely different dialect and language.

She smiled again, light pink lips turning up gently. Lifting her own hand, she patted his wrinkled one. "I know, Elder," she told him in her mildly deep voice, black eyes shining. "I am one of few free," she said, voice turning slightly bitter. Removing her hand from his, she swiftly zipped up the pockets and slipped back into her parka, closing it and drawing her hood up loosely. Striding to the doorway, she paused, looked back, and bowed her head respectfully.

"Why want disks?" the man asked one final question as he settled back into his cushioned chair, the padding worn and the wood scarred.

Before she drew the hood tightly about her face, she gave him a grim smile. "Because it is a time for change." And with that, she departed into the storm.