Slumming It: When a Short Story is the Bane of Your Existence

Not every story comes easy...

[T-Minus One Day | Monday, 13 August 2266]

Bakker stumbled the entire four meters between the hotel bed and the kitchenette. His back was aching and his neck felt like it had been at the mercy of a student chiropractor for the last twelve hours. Surely, YutopiCorp could have sprung for something a little nicer than a glorified cell with paint peeling from the walls and ceiling, and the floor being caked with stains—the last thing the detective wanted to was activate his OfficEye’s blue light filter, even if it would satiate his curiosity.

The detective reached for the coffee grinds. One of the few drugs still legal in the city is caffeine, and there was no way Bakker was going to miss his morning hit. Until he reached for the coffee jar that looked like it hadn’t been washed a single time in the last year, and saw that not only was it instant, there was also a dead rat buried inside. Coffee was going to have to wait until after the detective showered, waking himself up enough to find a café.

As he turned towards the bathroom, Bakker heard a knock to the door. Grumbling all the way, he turned himself back around and opened the door.

“Nice digs,” the woman at the door commented. “Welcome to Sector New York.”

As Bakker stared at the woman, he couldn’t get past the idea that she’s not human. He didn’t find her hideous, or even unattractive, per se—the detective actually found himself attracted to  her—but he couldn’t escape the feeling that she was no longer human. Her body had been modified with all flavours of cybernetic enhancement. Both arms are bionic, and from what he could tell, so were both her legs. He wasn’t about to ask a stranger to remove her shirt, but expected that if she did, most of her torso, if not all of it, was cybernetic. The mass of hair flowing from the top of the woman’s head was purely synthetic, each crystalline strand picking up and reflecting the light. Either she was much older than the thirty years she looked, or she had her genes spliced illegally. At the turn of the century, the powers that be outlawed gene splicing at the turn of the century, but here he was, sixty-six years later, proudly displaying feline ears and teeth.

“You Jonny Bakker?” the feline asked.

“Just ‘Jon.’”

“Whatever you say, Jonny,” the woman replied. “You can call me ‘Mittens.’”

“‘Mittens?’ Really?”

“None of us in the slums go by our legal names, Jonny.”

“Believe me, I know. Just…’Mittens?’ That’s a shitty nom de plume. Kind of on the nose, don’t you think?”

Mittens shoots a wicked smile in the detective’s direction. She reveals a hand and extends her index finger. A claw unsheaths from within it.

“Is that cybernetic or genomic?” Bakker asks.

“All that matters to you is it’s anaesthetic,” Mittens answers, before slicing her claw against the back of Bakker’s hand.

The detective looked at the scratch, lost his sight, then hit the floor.

Bakker slowly opened his eyes, the groggy detective pulled from his dreams of unicorns and fairy dust by the sound of a buzzsaw. Turning his head, the detective could make out a blurred vision of Mittens sawing his arm.

“What…?” The anaesthetic had not fully worn off.

Turning his head to his left, Bakker could see his OfficEye staring back at him.

Mittens looked down at Bakker, offering him a warm smile. Her claw extended once more, she scratched the back of his hand again.

“Fuck, you’re a strong one. Barely anybody wakes up once during a procedure, and you’ve managed it twice.”

While Bakker could hear Mittens’ words, wasn’t able to see her. His eyes shifted around, but all he could see were the ceiling lights dangling above him. He lifted his head in an attempt to turn it, before feeling Mittens’ hand fall onto his face, holding it in place.

“Keep still,” she tells the officer.

“But…my brain…is tingling.”

Rather than responding, Mittens scratched the back of Bakker’s hand once more.

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