They're rich and powerful. He's poor and unknown. They want his organs.
The car was unusually crowded. I should have known better. I should have risked losing my food share and my job. I should have waited for the next train. However foolishly, I stepped through the gaping double doors and pushed myself a place within the human cocoon that was the Grid Bound 70 commuter I rode inland every morning.
Immediately before me stood a man with open, running sores dotting his face. He began coughing phlegmatically, and nearly doubled over with the strain of it. People nearby grumbled softly, and a half dozen hands, including my own, hastily moved to check the sanimasks that covered everyone's faces. We all swayed back and forth in unison as the train began to creep forward to the next station. Apparently upset by the disorienting movement, sore-face vomited into his mask, which quickly filled with bile and overflowed. Chunks of half-digested tofu splattered the surrounding throng. Incredibly, where empty space had not seemed to exist only moments before, room was found, and people moved quickly away from the display.
This afforded me direct access to the other side of the car, and I made a dash in that direction, ducking below a stream of puke and only just avoiding a nasty slip in a pool of the same stuff. Just as I made the window, the parted sea of bodies came together once more, obscuring both the doors and sore-face. I was safe, for the moment.
Our car picked up speed after the next station, as it was last on the loading line. Grid Bound 70 was full to capacity, full to standing room only, and she would not stop again until she buried herself like a high velocity bullet in the tumorous sprawl of the city across the bay. Faster and faster she rocketed along, with only a slight tremble through the floor plates to betray her bulk as it bobbed atop a powerful magnetic field. Long ago the 70 train had been the pride of the commuter line, the first of a long series of supersonic passenger transports designed to feed the ever gluttonous demands of the city. But three generations of constant use had left her a pathetic, much patched remnant of her former self.
When she penetrated the sound barrier, the ride became smoother and quieter, and people began to mumble among themselves. I rubbed a clear spot in the grime covered Plexiglas window to better watch the oily, debris-strewn waters of the dead bay sweep past. Though why I wanted to do so was a question much too mysterious to have an answer. There was a time, I knew from story books, when the bay waters had been blue-green instead of dead-gray, when fish and birds had lived and fed there without suffering the instant death they encountered today. Looking through my tiny aperture in the filth, it was difficult to believe this to be so. It was difficult to picture anything but garbage swimming in that surf.
Whitecaps fled past at a blinding rate. In the distance, one arm of the broad bay shores stretched around to the south, covered to the high clouds with monstrously tall buildings. Other commuter lines pointed in that direction. Other Grid Bound's were rocketing along those lines, each filled to overflowing with disease ridden, hungry, desperate humanity. Back and forth, back and forth went the trains, like armored blood cells impelled by a rhythmic arterial flow. The big city breathed and fed with such a flow, was supplied in all its parts by an unseen heart of electricity that pumped millions of malignant cells into every room, every crevasse, every gutter. As all cancers, the tumor that was the city could only grow and grow greater with each pulse, without purpose or pleasure, with no intent but that of its own bloated increase.
More. The city wanted more for the sake of having more. It wanted more to make more. It wanted to make more to get more. More men, more metal, more concrete, more money. More of everything. More of nothing.
So there I was, aboard the 70 train, bound for a niche in the cliff face sprawl of society. Unimportant. Unnecessary. Unneeded. Nothing.
I was nothing, but at least I was alive. And that was a kind of importance. Wasn't it?
Still. I should have known better than to board that particular car, on that particular train, on that particular day. Something nagged at my thoughts as I swayed back and forth, but I couldn't decide what it was. I hadn't forgotten anything, as I had nothing, and so had nothing to forget. Upon looking out the window, I could see nothing amiss. The weather was no more foul than normal. The bay was filthy, but not unusually so. People crushed me from all around, but no more nor less so than usual. At least there were no more sore-faces around. Reflexively, I adjusted my sanimask to verify its seal. That was fine. My eyes darted superfluously across the faces turned in my direction. That something nagging my thoughts nagged louder, but didn't shout its name. I did a slow turn, scanning the faces behind me.