The Petals of Aphrodite

by Ulquiorra9000


February 18th, 2045

Jessica Cooper froze in place when the two muggers drew their shiny pistols on her father.

"Whoa there. Easy, fellas," Daniel Cooper said, setting down his two large grocery bags onto the rain-slicked sidewalk. He raised his hands to eye level, palms out. His beige trench coat rustled with the movement.

Jessica's heart hammered in her chest as she stared at the two armed men. They had just emerged from that back alley, as though expecting her, Daniel and her sister May to be here. Then again, this probably wasn't their first attack of the day. Saturday evenings were busy, after all. Lots of targets here in Port Newton.

"What's in the bags, man?" one of the thugs demanded. He wore a red beanie cap over his messy hair, and an outdated ocular implant glowed red in his left eye. His blue raincoat was a bit worn, his boots scruffy. But his Desert Eagle was in pretty good condition to Jessica's eyes.

Daniel didn't move, his hand still out. "Just shopping, boys," he said evenly. "My daughters and I have a bus to catch. Why don't we all just -"

"Shut up!" the other thug snapped. He was older than the other, his head bare, his pistol hand a titanium prosthetic with silvery joints. He motioned with his Glock. "Wallets, purses, everythin'. Now!"

Jessica's mind felt numb. Everything around her seemed slow, even surreal, dreamlike. The people of Port Newton indifferently bustled past along the crowded sidewalks, heads bowed, some with sight-enhancing visors over their eyes, glowing with soft blue lights. Overhead, colorful neon signs hung everywhere, advertising ever-present sex shows, virtual reality (VR) entertainment dens, prosthetic workshops, and bars. The evening sky was dark from gray clouds that threatened more rain.

Here she was, in this bubble of her crime scene, while everyone else was an other.

This city had a way of isolating people in many ways.

"Jessica, May," Daniel told his daughters, "be calm. Do what they want. It's not worth your life."

Dad... Jessica set down her shopping bag (just clothes, nothing fancy) and unslung her false-leather purse, trying not to show her trembling.

"Hey, the older one's a pretty thing," the younger mugger commented, his tongue running along his teeth. His eyes came alive. "How old's she?"

"Twenty-two," Daniel explained, handing over his wallet. "But don't worry about that. Here, my wallet -"

That was when Daniel's own pistol came out.

Jessica flinched and covered her face with her hands as a loud crack filled the smog-choked, neon-lit air. She heard the younger mugger scream and collapse, the older mugger and Daniel yelling, May screaming -

Another gunshot, then another. Jessica stumbled back and into a larger man, who slid out of the way, going about his business. No one was going to help. That was the law of Port Newton's streets.

Jessica took May's hand and felt her younger sister squeeze it tight. She could barely stand to watch as Daniel shoved away the older mugger, her father's parted trenchcoat flapping as Daniel grappled for a superior position.

Daniel fired. So did the mugger.

Daniel was thrown back and sprawled in a bloody heap.

"NO!" Jessica sank to her hands and knees, her throat painfully tight as she saw her father bleeding out from his chest. Shot in the lung, it seemed. He must have had seconds left -

"God damn it!" the older mugger snarled. He nudged his partner, confirming that he was dead. He trained his pistol on the sisters as he approached them. "Don't run, girls. Don't go out like yer old man. Gimme yer purses now!"

May was sobbing, and Jessica's vision swam with tears as she dimly saw the mugger tower over her, pistol trained on her. She vaguely heard him say something else, then felt him tear her purse from her clenched right hand. His arm reached toward May -

May! Jessica felt fury flare in her, indignant rage at this grimy man, this uncaring city, her father lying dead or dying as she could only watch.

The mugger seemed distracted for a second, yelling something at May, gesturing with that Glock of his in his metal hand.

Jessica felt her body finally uncoil itself, her hand flashing through the air. It found purchase on the mugger's Glock.

"Hey!" the mugger yelled. He swung a fist and it connected with Jessica's temple.

Dull pain radiated in Jessica's skull but she still didn't let go. Her fury-numb fingers wrenched the heavy weapon from the mugger's hands and she pointed it right at him.

She squeezed the same trigger that had gotten her father killed.

Another loud crack, the whiff of gunpowder, and the mugger sprawled onto the damp sidewalk.

Jessica shouted incoherently, her eyes still burning as she staggered to her feet, firing another shot, and another right into the mugger's chest, blood blasting from each hit, his body twitching.

He went still.

The pistol slipped from Jessica's fingers and she scampered over to Daniel's prone form. His eyes were glassy, reflecting the endless neon signs and electronic ad screens overhead. No breath. No movement.

"D-Dad..." Jessica slumped over his chest, her sobs aching in her chest. She felt May crouch next to her and wrap her arms around her.

"Wh-what should we do?" May choked out.

Jessica staggered to her feet, her ears ringing. Her breath came in heaves. "C-call aunt Christina," she croaked. "She'll know what to do. Come on. We have to get off the street."

With a monumental effort, Jessica tore eyes from her father's form and took May's hand, guiding her into a nearby restaurant and huddling with her in a corner table. May dialed their aunt's number in her cell phone and shakily told her everything.

Aunt Christina. With her influence and police connections, Jessica figured with a tiny ray of hope, she could get the sisters out of trouble for this, maybe even a bit of compensation. Anything.

Jessica shooed away a tentative waiter and kept her eyes on the street's rumbling traffic until a familar green Cadillac pulled up and her aunt climbed out. She wore her usual black leather jacket and high-heeled boots, contrasting with her dirty blonde hair and slender frame.

Christina Cooper stepped into the restaurant and approached her nieces, removing har dark sunglasses and slipping them into her pocket.

Jessica rose at once from her seat. "Aunt Chri -" she started.

Aunt Christina's eyes were downcast as she beckoned with a gloved hand. "Let's go, girls."

Author's note: This is only the 2nd draft of this story, so thorough and constructive criticism, as well as other feedback, is very welcome. Everything will help me revise this 2nd draft story, after it's done, into the eventual 3rd draft and beyond.