Mino Ruiz walked the four block route to his office with groggy determination. A strong stench, mixed with the tantalizing scent of coffee and sticky buns from Terra Bistro, wavered in the air. He slowed as he passed the bistro but refrained from stopping. A client was waiting for him at the office.
His private law office was little more than a large room with high ceilings and stuffed bookshelves; he had to run across the street to use the restroom. The building’s desolate appearance was due primarily to its being nestled in the rundown area of Rochester known as Old City, a place where free dwellers made up the majority. Compared to other neighborhoods, it was a slum.
Unlike the slums of the 20th century, which had revolved around race and immigrant status, Old City had transcended into a new realm after the riots of 2011. When new mandates were handed down limiting access to print media and demanding special state identification cards for the newer, safer government complexes, chaos had ensued. The looting and anarchy didn’t do much except ruin most of the classic architecture and rearrange the entire social strata of Rochester City around a distrust of the rapidly expanding government.
Mino had been a kid then, but he still scoffed at that distant fear of big government. If only those people could see us now, he often thought. They’d had such a small inclination of how their fear would be taken advantage of.
Driven by taxes and fear, the richer citizens moved uptown to the government complexes; Mino lived in a government complex like most employed citizens of Rochester, but his was on Avery Street just a block from the World War II monument that connected Old City. He did not have the same ideals as his paranoid neighbors who gave him dirty looks as he walked home from his office every evening.
There was an unspoken boundary in Monument Plaza that wavered but never collapsed. Few people were brave enough to cross freely. If he hadn’t been the son of a Spanish-French immigrant parents who had raised him to survive the prejudices of the last century, Mino would not have had the courage either. He had grown up in a similar city on the west coast where outsiders roused suspicion and aggression.
These outsiders were his clients now. Most could not afford decent pay because most were free dwellers, and so Mino was mostly impoverished and hungry. His tall, emaciated figure and haphazardly swinging limbs worried his clients, who often told him that he was too thin – that he should eat – and he brushed their concern away with a weary smile in order to return to business.
His first client of the busy day was waiting when he arrived. Mino unlocked his office door and beckoned the elderly gentleman inside. The man was penniless, of course, and a real free dweller – the kind who had no identification card and had long since lost his birth certificate. They settled down in his worn leather chairs and got to work immediately.
An hour later, he waved the man off and returned to his desk. He hated that there was nothing he could do under this circumstance; sometimes the laws reflected fear-turned-madness and were designed to suppress rather than protect. That didn’t stop them from being the law, however.
Faced with the untamed police powers that ran through Old City, Mino had come to understand one sad fact above all others. He could fight all the battles (and become a nameless, unsentenced prisoner like so many before him) or be strategic. The thought still sickened him, even after all his years in practice.
He hated xenophobia.