“Very impressive, Samuel. You were going to blow them up! So much less blood on your hands.”

Sam, Jefe and the stranger from Above stood, guns trained on each other.

Jefe’s men were sprawled on the floor, Sam’s had disappeared, and their car was engulfed in flames having just been blown up.

“And yet, that’s not exactly what happened, was it.”

“We are born to improvise. Now, put a bullet in this loser and let’s get going.”

“Going how. Exactly?”

“The Elevator.”

Sam thought for a second. “Knees,” he announced. “Both of them.”

His guest went down, screaming, his knees shot out.

Sam walked over. “See. That Elevator? Only one can ride it, you sack of shit.” He turne and walked to the Elevator. “Cover him.” Stopped. “Actually, cover them both. I’m now sure I trust Jefe yet.”

***

“This is it, Sammy-boy. Only one can ride this.” He fitted the last of his cases into The Elevator.

The coppery tang of blood made Sam’s nose tingle. He looked at the bodies. The death that he had wrought.

“It was the only way,” he repeated the mantra. Keeping the basics, changing the tactics.

He stared at his new face, reflected back at him.

This is everything he had worked for. All the death; all the pain; all the money. All the Sacrifice.

It was all for this. This moment.

This triumph.

He brought his hand to his cheek, remembering the start of this journey.

His face hit the ground , this nose crumbling on impact.

All that was behind him. He was free.

“Sorry, boys.”

There were two buttons. 1 and 0. Sam smiled, and pressed the button, turning away as the doors closed and The Elevator started its long journey up.

Through the glass wall, reinforced naturally, the whole of The Tow was visible.

His house. The site of his first deal; his first, and subsequent, beatings. The hovels of his friends. Friends…gang members…bodyguards.

Everything, in fact, except the final price of that journey. The sacrifice of his friends.

Only one person could ride The Elevator.

He remembered how they’d sit and watch the elevator shaft. Everyone did it. Watching to see if one of them was escaping to the High Life beyond the Cloud. Or if pain and misery was coming the other way.

It was only one way out of The Tow – beating everyone else. Rising to the top by any means necessary.

The elevator hit The Cloud. The layer of filth that enclosed The Tow. Shrouded it. Kept the gaze of the masses away from the land of milk and honey. Everybody wanted it – but no one knew what it was they were getting. All they knew was that it meant living like an animal – either predator, or prey. That was the modern way.

The Elevator started to slow. Sam straightened his suit. Now was the time to see if it all paid off.

The Elevator juddered to a halt, the floor alarm pinged. Which covered the sound of guns cocking.

And as the lift doors opened, so did the guns.

Above Cloud didn’t want any filthy upstarts muscling in on their turf. Keep them fighting each other. Kill those which threaten the status quo.

THAT was the modern way.

That was the only way.

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