Nathanial shifted his goggles to a more comfortable position and adjusted his breathing mask so he could have another roll-up.
The winter’s smog was particularly aggressive this month and his fingers soon ached as he hurriedly filled the paper with tobacco. He moved closer to the public fire. Not that it helped. The cold was in his bones now.
The dawning of the Steam Age, made London the birthplace of the New World, pandered to all who came to Her. The smog was the lice on this birthplace – ever present; something to be prepared for, avoided if possible. Absent mindedly scratching his crotch, Nathanial remembered he had to find a chemist before heading home.
“The way of the future, my arse.” He spat and sullenly watched the heat rise off it.
The station clock thunked another minute closer to delivery and he slipped his hand into his pocket. Nestled in his thief proof, inner pocket was a small silk bag containing 6 wax disks.
His sole reason for being on the streets tonight and his ticket out of them.
The disks were too small to be records, and a bit thicker than normal. And what a racket when he tried to play one! All squeals and white noise.
Truth be told, he didn’t care what they were. This was the deal of a lifetime and it had sought him out.
Nathanial stamped his feet and coughed. The noise echoed loudly in the square, but was quickly eaten by the smog.
He was a small time thief – a pickpocket by trade. But with the Future came more… unorthodox methods of working. And his skill set was much in demand. Lift a key here, some papers there. Plant this weapon on that sucker there.
Another thunk. And now he was moving, leaving the comfort of the fire and a smoldering butt. The train would arrive in two minutes, the mark would be under the clock in 4.
He slipped into a newsagent, scanning the papers as a cover for checking the area. Just as he had everyday for the past week.
A week earlier had been pulled into the local for a questioning by Her Majesty’s Constabulary. That had spooked him. He’d been on the move for the past year. There was no way they could have found him. He sat in the holding cell trying to work out who the grass was and hoping he wasn’t going to be interrogated. Last time he’d left with three broken fingers and couldn’t work for months.
But there was no interrogation. There weren’t even any coppers. There was just a lone Suit, all gloves and condescending looks. He was the type Nathanial wouldn’t normally have given the time of day, but the pile of cash he placed on the cell floor, as a down payment, had convinced him otherwise.
The train pulled in with a squeal of brakes and the release of steam. The empty platform flooded with people.
It was time to work – a simple one, two.
Nathanial identified his mark and headed for him. Within five steps, bag in hand, he collided with the mark.
Under the clock. 2 minutes after the train arrived. The clock chimed the hour.
Nathanial slipped the bag into the mark’s inside jacket pocket, while lifting the rest of his payment from the outside pocket on the far side.
The second chime.
“No, no. My fault entirely.”
Nathanial spun on his foot and strode away. Mission accomplished.
The clock struck a third time.
He felt the blow. Hard, like a punch, but it was a second before he felt the burn of the blade in his chest.
It effortlessly sliced though his flesh, opening him up. The blade left, and Nathanial staggered.
There was a fourth chime. This one from far away.
The cash had been lifted from him – another assailant? There was a shove in the middle of his back, propelling him into the crowd.
He coughed, spraying a film of blood over those near him.
A fifth chime. Should their be one?
He stumbled, going to his knees. He heard a scream from somewhere.
His crotch itched.
The job of a lifetime.