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The Bad Part of Symphonia's Landing

After a long day of hard, thankless work, Ted Taargus began his long walk back home. He maintained robots at a factory in Symphonia’s Landing. Many jobs in the Technocracy of Vega were automated, but despite countless technological advancements, they still needed people to repair the robots when they inevitably broke down. Although he performed an important function, his superiors treated him more like a menial servant. This left him feeling bitter and resentful at the end of every work day.

He was too poor to afford a car, nor did he desire one, because where he lived, it would just get vandalized, broken into, or stripped for parts in his sleep. It usually took him around two hours to walk back home. On most days, he only had enough money to pay for public transport in the morning. He never liked riding the bus, though, because it was often filled with unscrupulous individuals. Toothless vagrants, drug addicts, belligerent thugs, creeps and weirdos of all sorts, he didn’t like being around any of them.

He strolled through the industrial sector. The walls of the buildings were made with a hard and durable 3D-printed plastic. They were originally a gleaming white, but they had turned a grimy gray with the passage of time. Inside these factories, armies of robots created such a wide variety of products that he couldn’t begin to count them all, everything from industrial equipment to kitchen appliances. The robots on the assembly lines he trusted. The AIs that drive the delivery trucks, not so much. Assembly line robots have predictable patterns. They have only one task and they do it well. But AI-controlled vehicles are expected to make many decisions on the fly. Scientists had been developing artificial intelligence for thousands of years, but they had yet to create anything that had the same intuition as a human. He still remembered the time when he was nearly run over by one of those self-driving trucks. He was walking past a parking lot and one of those vehicles came speeding towards him. He jumped out of the way and watched as it crashed through several lamp posts before coming to a complete stop. He didn’t know if its software glitched up or its hardware malfunctioned. The cause of the vehicle’s erratic behavior did not matter to him. All he knew was that he needed to keep an eye out for them.

He walked over a simple steel bridge that spanned a concrete channel that divided the industrial and residential sectors. On the other side was block after block of nearly identical 3D-printed apartment complexes. The only thing that differentiated them was the graffiti on their walls. The official name of this area was Residential Sector Beta, but it was colloquially known as the Graveyard of Dreams. Created by the government long ago to provide affordable housing to the poor, the apartments looked more like tombstones than living spaces. 20 million people eked out a meager existence here. Half were humans, the other half consisted of various alien races.

Ted’s route remained largely unchanged for the past ten years, although he occasionally goes down different streets to avoid any would-be muggers. He didn’t want to become too predictable. Despite the dull uniformity of the buildings, certain landmarks became familiar to him: the piece of graffiti depicting the floating head of a red-skinned, one-eyed demon, the fire hydrant painted in bright yellow polka dots, the pyramid of empty oil drums. There was also the scrap metal booth where an Arakha – a spider-like alien – sold shawarmas. He would buy one from the guy on special occasions, but now wasn’t one of those times.

An Arcturid stood outside the entrance to one of the apartment complexes. Dressed in a stained white shirt, blue jeans, and black leather jacket, he ran a comb through his gray fur. When he saw Ted walking near, his wolf-like ears twitched and he bared his sharp teeth.

“What are you looking at, human?” Like most Arcturids, he pronounced the word human as Hugh Mann.

Ted ignored him, still maintaining a steady pace.

“Yeah, that’s right. Keep walking.” The wolf-man went back to combing his fur.

Certain streets in this part of town were so ridden with violent crime that not even the police dared to step foot in them. The residential sector was enormous, but Ted memorized all the most dangerous streets. He passed by one at that moment. A pair of Orkhovs – orcs, as humans called them – stood guard outside a boarded-up apartment. They wore black shirts and jeans and had pistols on their hips. Ted always assumed they produced drugs in there, but he knew better than to stick his nose where it didn’t belong.

Half a mile down the poorly-lit street, he saw a group of Arcturids beating up a black man. The street to the right of him was shrouded in darkness. Backtracking would take too long. He had no other choice but to take a left and go through a red light district.

The Graveyard of Dreams had several red light districts where apartment buildings were converted into brothels and other unsavory businesses. A group of pink-haired catgirls in skimpy pink dresses stood outside one. They smiled at him, but their eyes told a different story. A few paces down there was a group of human women in shiny black bodysuits. Tempting though they were, he turned them down. He never had any luck with women, but he wasn’t desperate enough to pay for sex, nor did he have the financial means to do so.

As Ted approached the intersection, a strange man emerged from a dark alley. His hair was pink with a few locks of light blue. He had an effeminate face and was dressed in a tight black shirt, leather pants, and a studded codpiece. Most peculiar of all were his purple eyes which seemed to glow in the dark.

“Hi there,” the man said with sly smile. “Great night out, isn’t it?”

“Uh-huh,” was Ted’s terse response.

“Do you come here often?”


“I saw you walk right past all those girls.”

“Yeah. What about it?”

“Are you perhaps interested in alternative stuff?”

Ted knew what the man meant by that and he didn’t like it. “Uh, no thanks.”

“Oh come on,” the man said with an off-putting smirk. “It would be fun.”

Ted ignored him and kept walking. He traveled just three blocks before the strange man emerged from a dark alley in front of him.

Still grinning, the man said, “You wouldn’t have ventured into the red light district if you weren’t at least curious.”

“I don’t swing that way,” Ted replied while walking around him.

Another three blocks later and the bizarrely dressed, effeminate man appeared once again. “You shouldn’t knock it until you try it. You might enjoy it.”

Ted remained steadfast. “I said I don’t swing that way.”

The pink-haired man began following him. Ted wished that guy would just get lost. He wanted to run, but he was afraid the man would chase him down, so he decided to keep cool and walk casually. He passed a cathedral, one of the only religious buildings in the Graveyard of Dreams. When the strange man looked upon its beautifully crafted Gothic exterior, he turned away and hissed before fleeing into the darkness.

Ted’s home was right next door to the cathedral. He entered the building and swiftly went up the stairs to his apartment. He thanked God that he got back safe and sound, and he made a mental note to himself to never go through the red light district again.


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