The First (and incomplete!) Draft
[T-Minus Three Days | Saturday, 11 August 2266]
Detective Bakker has had better days. In fact, after twenty-three years working as an officer of the Force, he could count on one hand the days that were worse than this one.
A group of Jokezterz had hacked into the City’s Conscience feed, a once-in-a-decade event. YutopiCorp will never let such transgressions stand; whenever this occurs, the denizens lose confidence in the monolithic empire, and civil unrest ensues. Matters were worse this time: the Jokezterz had kidnapped Sector Seattle Counsellor Adrit and broadcast his paedophilic activities to the entire City.
YutopiCorp wanted revenge. They vet each person in any position of power exhaustively, to ensure that nothing will come out against them. They were obviously well aware of the Counsellor’s predilections, but had removed the digital trail—he was the best person for the job, so they would never let such proclivities cause controversy.
But those proclivities were now out. And the Jokezters had to pay.
An hour prior, the detective had transmitted his location to the Force, requesting immediate back-up. He had followed the trail of breadcrumbs to a once-thought abandoned warehouse. Instead, his contacts assured him, this warehouse was being used as a Jokezterz stronghold.
“I’m sorry,” the operator said when returning Bakker’s transmission. “The Sector Seattle Force is otherwise preoccupied.”
“Don’t give me that shit; I’m copping fire from Jokezterz here! Can you tell me that every officer has made it into one of their strongholds? By my count, this is the first one that’s been discovered in seven years.”
“That’s classified, Detective Bakker.”
“Of course it is.” Bakker’s grumble adds an extra decade to his gravelly voice. “I have thirty-five heat signatures, outside of the three I just sent cold. Including one strapped to a chair. Pass it up the line.”
“I’ll do my best, Detective Bakker. But between you and me, sir, don’t wait for them.”
Bakker disconnects from the transmission. “Bitch,” he mutters under his breath.
The detective examined his surroundings. The Jokezters have retrofitted the warehouse, now a labyrinth of long and winding corridors, each turn obscured by yet another door. Three heat signatures appear on his HUD, courtesy of his standard issue OfficEye. These signatures are approaching the door on his left. Bakker turns toward the door and aims his gun: they’ll be riddled with explosive rounds before they step through.
The storm outside the stronghold intensified as lightning shot down from the sky, each strike providing a brief reprieve from the neon blue creeping through the windows. The roar of thunder filled Bakker’s ears, and he missed the latch of the door unlocking. Outlaws use whatever ancient technology they can: if it’s offline, it’s unhackable, after all.
As the door opened, the detective took aim. His finger resting against the trigger, he stopped himself from squeezing. The heat signatures belonged to children.
“What the hell?”
“Don’t shoot!” the first kid, around nine, yelled. The second kid, seven, hid against the third, about twelve.
Using his OfficEye, Bakker scanned the children. The network was unable to identify them: likely, they were born in the Seattle Sector slums, outside the system, the poor kids. The scan also confirmed that the children do not have implanted explosives; so Bakker was unconcerned that they’re a Trojan Horse trying to catch him out with a surprise explosion. That made a pleasant change, at least.
“What the fuck are you kids doing here?” Throughout his life, Bakker had actively avoided fathering children, as his bedside manner might suggest.
“We live here,” the eldest answered.
“What? With Jokezterz?”
“We’re all Jokezterz,” the youngest one replied. “Are you?”
Bakker hides his laugh while shaking his head. “Nah, kid. I’m an officer.”
As the detective displays his holographic badge, the kids tremble with fear. “Don’t shoot us!” the middle child says.
“Officers are bad people,” the youngest says.
“Do I look like a bad guy?” Bakker’s question is answered by three children nodding their heads in unison.
“Eh, fuck you, too.”
Bakker takes a breath. “If I was a bad guy, I would have shot you. I’m here to help.”
“What? Help the bad man? That’s what the Force does, right?” the youngest said.
“If the Conscience feed is correct, Counsellor Adrit is a criminal. The Force stops criminals. Can you take me to him? Please?”
Five minutes later, the detective had arrived outside “the Studio,” which, the children assured him, is where the feed originated. Inside, the children said, were their parents, as well as all the adults. Thirty-two heat signatures, Bakker’s HUD confirmed.
Bakker punched something into his cybernetic arm and glared at the kids. “Get out of here,” he growled.
Aiming his cybernetic appendage at the door, Bakker fired a sonic blast, shooting it off its hinge. As the group inside the Studio turned toward him, a hard-light riot shield appeared from his arm. Bakker trudged inside the door, met by gunfire, each round bouncing off his shield.
“Cut the feed,” Bakker demanded.
Once the Jokezterz’s laughter subsided, Bakker continued. “Cut it, or I will.”
The detective reached for a pouch on his belt and revealed a nanobomb and placed it gently on the ground. He then tapped his arm, sending an EMP throughout the stronghold, shutting down all of the technology inside.
“Adrit’s a goddamn paedophile,” one of the Jokezterz said. “The City knows this and they don’t care.”
“I do,” Bakker said. “Get out of here. Before I set off this nanobomb, killing everybody here.”
“Not until he’s paid for what he did to my son!” another Jokezter says.
Bakker strode towards Adrit and pulled his gun. Through the dark, the Jokezterz could only see a silhouette move toward the Counsellor. They were able to hear, however. And hear they did; the unmistakable sound of three gunshots being fired at point blank range, directly into Adrit’s skull.
The detective turned to the group.
“Listen up. I set the timer for ten minutes, and you now have just over nine. You fucked with the Conscience feed, and believe me when I tell you, you’re now number one on YutopiCorp’s most wanted list. Get out; get your kids out, as far away as possible,” Bakker demands. “I solved your Adrit problem, but the process is that I kill everybody here. Make sure you’re not here when the explosion happens.
Detective Bakker has had better days. In fact, after twenty-three years working as an officer of the Force, he could count on one hand the days that were worse than this one. As he drove away from the blazing ball of fire formerly known as the Jokezterz’s stronghold, now looking for the nearest dive that would help him dampen his grip on reality for the night, he was unaware that those better days were now long behind him.