Edible Brand Recognition

8

Sean yawned, moving to the next vehicle. Rain began to pour through the smog that coated the city, smothering it in a wet blanket. As the droplets hit the car, he tapped on the window. It slid down to reveal a figure in a motorcyclist's helmet. Their breath fogged against the visor.

"You know I just shot your friend there." He said whilst stifling back a yawn.

The figure spoke, their voice muffled by the helmet. "And you don't wanna know where she got the dice? Some cop you are."

Sean leaned in an inch closer, checking the ammunition in his pistol out of the corner of his eye.

"Go on."

The biker eased up, realizing they weren't in any immediate danger of being shot. "Told me over the phone last Saturday, she met some guys down by the underpass. They had some fancy armbands, brought a bunch of boxes with 'em. Said they were selling.. Well, anomalies, to be frank. She came home with the dice, immediately wanted to go racing, and…"

Sean noted the pause. "And?"

"And.. well, you know what you did. My girl's brains are on the fucking pavement now."

"Your girl?" He winced slightly at the corpse he left in the car behind them.

The biker lifted their helmet visor as to speak more clearly. "Well, not anymore."

He sighed, "You don't seem too shocked to have your girlfriend be shot by an Authority officer."

"Real new relationship. Clingy. Like you."

Sean paused. "Like me?"

"An asshole."

"..Get out of the car, slick."

They sighed, exiting the vehicle. Revealing themselves to be a she. Sean cleared his throat, pulling a pair of handcuffs from his belt.

"That really necessary man?"

Sean nodded, wordlessly. He was tired, the effort of having to chase down anomalously fast vehicles wearing him down. He pushed the biker into the back of the floating police vehicle, tentatively labeled a car. As he climbed back into the driver's seat he noticed the librarian sitting there, a book sprawled on the dashboard.

"The car disappeared while you were.. Busy. I brought it back." She said the word busy as if it were a particularly disgusting piece of food, her voice dripping with venom.

He turned the key in the ignition, gliding up above the traffic. Within a minute the vehicle had landed in the Protection Center courtyard, floodlights glistening off its metallic exterior.

As they landed, the woman in the backseat spoke. "Hey, you're gonna do something about those trafficker guys right?"

"Definitely. But later."

The biker moved to speak, Sean shutting the plexiglass divider. He got out of the vehicle, opening the door for her to exit. She began sprinting towards the grime-covered fence that separated the courtyard from the underpass. Sean sighed, retrieving his pistol. When he looked back, he saw that she was attempting to climb the fence. To much discord from the librarian, he pulled the trigger, the small of the biker's back erupting into a spray of red vapor.

“Major— what on Earth are you doing?”

He turned, sighing with more malice than before. In place of the vehicle there now stood a man, with the librarian having the look of a kitten that had been caught extending its claws into the sofa.

Sean grumbled. “What, she was a dissident.”

“You’d best hope for your record’s sake she was!”

He smirked, regaining the familiar shield of sarcasm. “What, the spotless record I’ve held over your sorry ass for— is it three years now, Sergeant?”

The Sergeant gritted his teeth, then moving to speak.

“I’ll never understand how a man of your talents got to be this drunken excuse for a Major.”

“Ah- watch it Sergeant-“ Sean said, then imitating the other man’s voice in a mocking fashion. “For your record’s sake.”

The man stomped off, the medals on his jacket shining beneath the neon glow of the courtyard floodlights.

Sean looked at the librarian. “What?”

“Was the insult really necessary?”

“Of course.”

She nodded as if accepting the sarcasm as a contributor to his rank.

He cleared his throat, watching as it began to rain. The downpour came as sudden as a truck on a freeway. “Now, I must ask, you got a name?”

She looked at him. "A numerical designation, yes."

"Well that just won't do sweetheart." He said, that all-too familiar sarcasm oozing from his voice.

She sighed. "Is there a point to this conversation?"

"Well I figured we call it a day, go to the bar maybe."

“You really want to go for drinks,” she noted.

“That’s my salary you’re talking about.”

She tucked her books beneath her coat, sheltering them from the rain. “Then I’m afraid I must decline, Major."

He watched as she walked off into the rain, her cloak trailing behind her in the cold April wind. That damned April wind. The synthetic purrs of the Protection center provided a sort of melody behind the rain, a certain symphonic malice to it. Sean walked away, in the other direction. He put on his helmet, the passing civilians making way, glancing at the symbol on his coat. As he descended the steps to the underpass walkway, a jazzy tune wafted in from a nearby bar. The bar was situated within the underpass walls, cut out from the concrete like a hummingbird's nest. He walked inside, the room smelling of burnt cigarettes.

The bartender looked at him, letting out a chuckle. "Lemme guess, the usual skin job?"

"Oh shut it Batty, you know I don't understand that city-speak nonsense."

The old black man shook his head, filling a glass from one of the plastic containers in the back of the bar. He handed it to Sean, the gap in their conversation allowing the stale jazz to float through the bar from the old radio in the corner.

"So," he said, setting the glass down. "You seen anything lately? You know the kind of shit I mean."

"Even drunk you're still on the job, eh Lee?"

Sean sighed. "I told you not to call me that, Batty."

"Well you ain't never told me your first name!" The older gentleman said, chuckling. "But yeah, you mention it, I have seen some odd folks lately."

Sean shook the ice in his glass. "Like?"

"Like, they came in here with boxes and shit, try'na sell me some 'magic' brewin' machine. I told 'em no, so they left."

He stopped shaking the glass, looking up. "Any recognizable symbols? Like, armbands?"

Batty shook his head. "They had armbands, yeah, but ain't nothing I recognized."

"And you didn't happen to take any pictures?"

"Hell no man, they had rifles. I ain't pissing off no men with rifles."

Sean laughed, setting down the glass. "Piss me off sometimes, Batty. But not too terribly."

"Don't go reporting me to your bosses," The old man chuckled, however there was no warmth behind it.

"Report you for what? Selling a damn good tequila?"

"Yeah, it could be- what was the word you use? Anomalous tequila."

"Trust me Batty," He said, "I can pull a few strings. You making anomalous tequila, you'll be fine."

The gentleman nodded, Sean turning and exiting the stuffy concrete space so lovingly called a bar. The stained white concrete of the underpass walls glistened in the rain, as workers briskly walked by him. Some looked at the symbol stitched onto his coat, proceeding to strut forward at a faster pace, almost in fear. Not in fear of him, but of the symbol. He noticed this, scoffing. The muffled jazz from the bar could still be heard from outside, fading away as Sean walked on through the underpass crowds.

A canned voice came from the receiver in his coat pocket. "Major, what are you doing?"

He pulled it from his coat, putting the microphone to his face. "I went for a drink. That a crime?"

"So you've done nothing about the possible group of traffickers?" The librarian scoffed over the microphone.

"I didn't say that."

"What'd you find, then?"

He sighed. "Well they're in the underpass, for starters."

Static came over the receiver, and he could vaguely make out the sound of a woman choking on her drink. He stifled the urge to laugh.

She cleared her throat. "Any other leads? Uniforms, anything like that?"

"Armbands. Automatic weaponry- at least enough people to carry multiple crates."

"Crates? Of?" She asked, Sean weaving through the crowds of the underpass.

He contained his urge to laugh again. "Anomalies, what did you think they'd be? Tequila?"

"I don't know. You're being oddly unspecific."

Sean paused, looking to the end of the underpass. Beneath a bridge, sat six men in biohazard suits. They wore armbands, with a forgotten striped symbol etched onto the fabric.

"Hold that thought." He said, walking toward them. He hit a button on the inside of his coat, the triangular logo on his pocket disappearing. As he approached, one of the men set down the box they were carrying up the stairs to the street above.

He removed the filter on his mask, to speak. "Hello, good sir! You look like you might want a little something special, eh?"

Sean began speaking in a nasally tone. "Why yes sir I would- but what kind of special?"

"Well you know, the kind you can't just find at a corner store. The kind of thing some might call.. Magical!"

"You believe in magic, then?" He scoffed, continuing the facade.

The man shook his head. "Not magic, sir. You know full well what the government calls these things- anomalies! But we sell them cheap, cheaper than those cons at Amazing Co. We've got guns that shoot anything, soda that gives you superpowers, and more!"

"And- what's the name of your fine establishment?"

The man twisted his body around, showing off the armband. "Idyllic's Finest in Esoteric and Extravagant Delights!"

Sean coughed, the nasally voice grating against his throat. "Hell of a name, sir. But what's that symbol even mean?"

"I don't know, some old country flag. Anywho, you need any goods, give us a call. Gotta pack up now anyways."

He nodded, staring at the striped armband as the man walked away. Sean felt as if he should remember what it meant, as if it had some kind of prior respect to it. The respect you would give an ancient marble statue, lonesomely positioned in the middle of a museum. But he could not remember the nation that the flag had once belonged to.

As the man walked away, a voice emanated from the man's mask, "Yeah, pack it up. Just talked to a cop."

Before Sean could process this newly found information, he felt a vibration from the device in his coat pocket.

"Major? What happened?" The canned voice of the librarian shook his thoughts apart.

He lifted the microphone to his mouth. "Yeah, listen. Get the guys at the center, bring 'em on down here. Bust these guys, say you found 'em, get a medal or whatever it is they hand out these days," He exhaled, concerned that he couldn't remember the flag. "I'm going on leave."

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