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  1.     The year is 2132. You are in San Francisco, one of the world’s leading forces in the technology market and, after the Pan-Pacific wars of the early 2100’s, one of the most populous cities in the United North American Territories.
  2.     The state of the world is, as ever, tumultuous and often unpredictable. The old power structures of the early 21st century linger, though much of the global economic and political landscape has seen massive restructuring. The United States of America is, for the most part, still the capitalist powerhouse it was at the height of its power, though it has experienced something of a rebranding following the inception of the New North American Free Trade Agreement in 2076.
  3.     Now, Canada, America, and Mexico form what is collectively referred to as the United North American Territories. While technically still separate political entities, it’s a well-known fact that politics matter little when compared to the economic power wielded by corporations.
  4.     In San Francisco, these megacorporations practically run the city. While refugees crowd the streets and crime runs rampant, executives broker deals for experimental technology and cutting edge inventions that are still so new that they haven’t been made illegal yet. The goal is always to capitalize on the Next Big Thing, whatever toy, whatever gadget will hold the attention of the masses for longer than a minute.
  5.     The city itself is a latticework of grey skyscrapers, rows of cheap, cramped apartment buildings replacing the shiny penthouses of the early Technological Era. Everywhere, there’s constant activity - from the piers, where shipments flow in and out around the clock, to Chinatown, to Little Saigon, to the heights, all the way up Market Street, where the glossy corporate buildings turn into an endless parade of flashy, dirty nightclubs, the neon lights bleeding into the air.
  6.     It is night and the sky is covered in a thick fog that hangs hazy overhead, lit up dim and grey by the city lights. There is a van parked halfway up Turk Street; it’s an ugly, hulking thing, a product of the military stylings of the 2110’s, when manufacturers went for sleek and ended up somewhere between geometric and unnaturally curved instead.
  7.     Turk Street is busy, the last dregs of rush-hour traffic still sitting bumper-to-bumper along the street, impatiently waiting for a near-defunct stoplight to decide if it wants to keep flickering on red or switch to green instead. But this isn’t unusual - Turk Street is always busy, even more after the sun’s gone down. The sidewalk is lined with cars and a traffic cop is making his slow way down the street, issuing tickets for each car with an expired meter. The tickets hover in the windshield’s optical displays, waiting patiently for their owners to return.
  8.     He pauses at the van, peruses it with an expression of distaste, and glances at the meter. He tosses another look at the van and squints at the dark windows, but they’re pitch black, post-factory filters applied to the glass to hide the interior from view. That, too, is normal on Turk Street, and the traffic cop only gives a little shrug before moving on.
  9.     He completes his walk down to the end of the block, and he was only screamed at once by a passing woman, her eyes bloodshot and her hands shaking, which, for Turk Street, is by all means a good night. He climbs back into his cruiser, settling into the driver’s seat. A call comes in over his comm and he answers, responding quickly. The communications officer on the other side says there’s been a suicide at Greenway. He’s the closest to the scene, she says.
  10.     He sighs. Maybe not so good a night after all.
  11.     He presses his thumb to the ignition reader and the engine rumbles to life beneath him, purring loudly in the dark confines of the car.
  12.     Behind him, there is a van parked halfway up Turk Street. The door of the van slides open. A girl steps out, dark-haired and startlingly thin. She looks behind her, back at the van, and then she closes the door.
  13.     She pulls her jacket tight around her, burying her hands in its pockets and hunching her shoulders against the chill of the foggy night. She spares a glance up at the building in front of her, dark eyes scanning the glimmering glass-front of the office building. It’s out of place here, as if it had been plucked from among the clutter of Market Street and tossed down to Turk, where it towers over the dark, crumbling motels and dingy restaurants that live alongside it.
  14.     Her face is impassive and she turns to go without further pause, winding into the crowd as they pass.
  15.     She reaches the end of the street as the traffic cop pulls away from the curb. He passes, and she watches him go.
  16.     Behind her, there is a van parked halfway up Turk Street.
  17.     From within the van, there is a noise, nearly lost in the din of the city. But it’s there, below the buzz of San Francisco at night - an odd, sucking sound, like the hollow rushing of a drain.
  18.     The crowd passes. If anyone notices, no one seems to care.
  19.     The sound whirls on and ends with a soft click.
  20.     Then, the van parked halfway up Turk Street explodes.
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