His name is spliced in two as the doors of victory mansion open and the man walks out onto the pedestrian. It is a crisp spring afternoon and the day’s commuters are marching home from the nearby financial sector. Shimmering glass sky towers line the side of Bowerman street like giant tombstones, each showing a reflection of the other and the bustling street between them infinitely. Despite the hundreds of people walking to and fro, the overbearing smell is that of cleaning product. Overhead, there is a traffic jam in the skyway. There are no horns tooting, no aggressive impatience, just a stationary line of platinum hovercars that stretches as far as the eye can see. Below, on the walls of the shimmering glass buildings, images are moving. An athlete is depicted in his starting blocks, then springing forward. “Nike. Just Do It”. The man walks faster and faster. He can feel their eyes piercing him and their whispers form an unbearable cacophony. Everyone is watching him. His tattoo itches now more than ever. Today, the posters are getting to him. It’s odd how used to his own face he has become, seeing it flash on the eletroposters that seem to cover every surface in this damned city. It’s even odder how freaky he finds his own face as he walks towards a place that defies everything he and everyone else reading the posters have ever been taught.
“Markus, Markus, Markus” he turns.
They swoop in like gulls to bread. Pens are thrust into his hand and he goes into autopilot. M-A-R-C-U-S H-O-O-N. A casual scribble that can chiseled for thousands. He smiles politely, drops a customary “just do it”, and continues to walk.
The man is a picture of human beauty. Chocolate colored skin covers a lean, athletic body. Black hair is clipped tightly around his chiselled face, and covering his body head-to-toe is the complete set of Nike’s latest streetwear collection. He is dressed in the height of fashion. Or, more accurately, he is the height of fashion. Apart from his physical prowess, only one other feature of this man distinguishes him from the crowd. A large, sleek “swoosh” covers his left cheek: The mark of a sponsored athlete. The blessing that has become his curse. In Newmerica, and in Corpsoc in general, this small detail was the difference between gods and mortals.
He continues his vain attempt to blend in as he walks on, a task that his 6″4 stature makes particularly difficult. However, the streets around him are becoming quieter as he distances himself from the center of the Nike district, and ahead, the dark streets of the Inbetween loom. He has never dared venture this far from his quarters before, but today is different. Today is the first day of the rest of his life. Despite everything going exactly to plan, his stomach shifts uneasily. Nerves he is used to, but today is different. Unlike every other race in the past five years, today there is a chance that he may lose. Today he isn’t performing for a crowd or satisfying anyone’s expectations, but today he can hear the clock ticking more than ever before. The air around him feels as though it is becoming thicker. It is no longer a crispy or clear day but rather a smoggy and humid one. He must be nearing the end of the range of the conditioning dome.
The streets feel inhabited again. The glistening towers of Bowerman street have become one and two story huts connected by webs of washing lines. The huts appear questionably stable, built from a combination of hand-mixed cement, corrugated iron, and rotting wooden pellets. The air is alive with smells Children skip back and forth, yelling and screeching, only to stop as their little eyes fall upon his awe-striking figure. Two more blocks of this