I don’t live in a good neighborhood. To be fair, most neighborhoods this low in the city aren’t good neighborhoods. You don’t start finding nice ones until you’re a couple hundred floors up, where the sun shines. Down here where weeds actually grow; sickly and twisted under the artificial lights, there are no good neighborhoods.
I actually work in a good neighborhood, not a nice one, but one where you don’t have to worry about getting mugged on the way to the elevators. Not because the area attracts a better breed of people, but the local businesses employ a better breed of thug to keep the undesirables away.
It’s a good job, as jobs this low go. The only benefits are the two bulky men with obvious combat implants who share the lobby with me. The closest thing I get to health insurance is the in-house doctor, but the man is a good enough sort as unlicensed physicians go. He had lost his license due to a bad habit of getting too handsy with his clients, but that wasn’t an issue with the merchandise here, so he fit in.
When I first got the job I use to let him get handsy with me too. That stopped when the madam told me I was allowed to say no. I couldn’t ask for a better boss; she took me in when I really couldn’t get any lower, even if I wasn’t quite willing to do the work.
I use to be scared walking the five blocks from the elevator to my apartment complex. I would continue to be scared when I went up the two flights of stairs, and past six doors to get to my apartment. I had reason to be scared then, I had been followed all the way from work once. A client hoping for a discounted price. I didn’t stop being scared until I had engaged the two magnetic locks and the old fashioned deadbolt. After all, the electronics could be messed with by anyone who knew how.
As scared as I was getting to my little apartment, as small as it was with just a single room with storage in the floor, the toilet and kitchen in the walls, I loved it. I loved the single ratty poster of some guy in a band I used to be a fan of, and my bed: a single ratty futon covered in an assortment of mismatching pillows.
The madam had offered me a room, but that came with the assumption that I would use it for work. Work that at this point I wasn’t quite willing to do. So instead of living in the metaphorical ivory tower, even if it was made of a tungsten composite, I walked home every night.
These days I wasn’t so scared walking home. As it turns out when you spend twenty-three hours a shift in a mostly empty lobby with two large enhanced men, you get to know them. The one with the ocular implants would tell all sorts of stories about a dog he had as a kid, a real one, not a robot covered in synthetic fur. The one who no longer had hands didn’t say much, but when he did it generally sounded important.
They taught me things that you don’t learn in school, not the nicer school I went to. They taught me how not to be scared.
It’s simple, almost laughable how simple it sounds, not so easy in practice because it doesn’t matter how I feel inside. The things that matter walking the five blocks to my apartment are long strides, a head held high, and a slight smile. People are less likely to try to mug you if you look confident.
Confidence is hard to fake, but not too difficult to purchase. After all, muggers don’t usually wear body armor.