He finally moved to that deluxe apartment in the sky. For Washington Thomas it was the ultimate validation of a lifetime of sweat, hard work and always being thought of as second best by others.
Surveying the opulent comforts of his Aerie City penthouse, he couldn't help thinking how much Isabel would have loved it here. He'd always promised her their day would come and now that it had, she wasn't there to share it with him.
A tear came to his eye as he thought of his long-suffering wife. Her life with him hadn't been an easy one and her death, because of him, had been an especially unpleasant one. She'd passed in screaming agony, the meds insufficient to grant her ease. His son, Ritchie, had left the hospital and refused to accept any contact with Washington. He couldn't fault his son for the anger that consumed him.
It had all been so needless. With over 30 years in the business he felt foolish for what had been a rookie error in judgment.
By the dawn of the 24th century, overpopulation, rampant industrialization and lax discipline regarding the disposal of hazardous and toxic substances were wreaking brutal havoc on humanity. As a licensed wetcleaner, Washington and others like him were the last hope of many. He possessed both the knowledge and the tech required to purge their bodies of even the most virulent stains their DNA had been plagued by.
Unwilling to spend his life toiling away in one of the fancy corporate facilities, Washington had embarked on the risky path to of an independent. From a single squalid lab with barely-adequate equipment, he'd expanded his business to offer six of the brightest, cleanest, most effective freelance operations in existence.
He'd been on the cusp of finally achieving both the clinical and financial acclaim he so richly deserved when Isabel became ill. Having been subjected to the maladies of countless clients, he'd been imbued over time with a certain immunity to their effects. Fatigue and hubris had combined one especially long work day and he'd foregone the time-consuming decon process. For his laxity, Isabel had paid the ultimate price.
He was drawn from his reverie as Milan, the maid, shot him an angry glare and a muttered imprecation on her way out. Even before the unfortunate incident, she'd always been far more fond of his wife than of him. Her loathing was now barely concealed.
Uneasy in solitude, he considered and rejected seeking out the company of his few acquaintances in the building. His neighbor, Astin-Marton was some sort of minor government functionary. His hedonistic and vapid lifestyle repulsed Washington. The mixed-race couple from downstairs, Sawyer Bruce and his wife, Hayes, annoyed him with their assumption they shared some bond with him they did not.
Nursing a stiff drink and gazing out the window, he wondered wistfully if the fall to earth when he flung himself out would be anywhere near as painful as had been his fall from grace with everyone he'd ever cared for.