Ramblings

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

Not every story comes easy...

[Welcome to the Slum | Tuesday, 14 August 2266]

Bakker’s head spun as he reached consciousness. Everything after the point he met Mittens is a blur. After his rough night, at least the bed felt more comfortable than the previous night. As he focused his eyes, the realisation that he wasn’t in his hotel room dawned on him.

“Where am I?” he mumbled to himself.

“Morning.” Mittens sat up next to the detective.

“What? Did we?”

Mittens laughed with a shake of her head. “No, I never take advantage of customers, outside of charging them far too much for my skill. Lucky for you, Her Eminence paid me in advance. You were just too groggy to get yourself home last night, so I brought you to my bed. But fuck taking the floor; I need my beauty sleep, too.”

“Thanks. I think.”

“Go, take a shower. When you’re awake, I’ll take you through your upgrades.”

“Coffee, too.”


Bakker stepped into the living room, now clean and wearing fresh clothes. Unable to escape the sledgehammer pounding his head, not the steamroller repeatedly running over his body, he is in an unpleasant mood.

“This arm’s smaller than the last model,” he grumbles. “And it doesn’t sit flush like the other one. It’s like a skeleton’s arm.”

Curled up on her couch, Mittens sipped her coffee as she admired her handiwork. His arm wasn’t much to look at, more like a pair of iron square sections, joined by a ball bearing, with skeletal digits stuck to the end.

“Your coffee’s on the table. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble picking it up with your new toy.”

Reaching down for his coffee, Bakker grasped the cup. His robotic fingers shattered the porcelain, creating a coffee explosion over the table.

“It seems strong, at least,” Bakker said.

“Quadruple the strength of standard issue arms. Yours was a couple of generations old too, and YutopiCorp only purchases mass-produced cheap mods for the Force. Definitely not the quality you get with my art.

“What else does it do?”

“Sonic blasts, shields, all the crap the OfficArm did for you,” Mittens said. “Plus a few extras I added in, like electrocuting anybody who tries to grab it, a signal scrambler and an EMP field.”

“An EMP would shut me down.”

“No, it would just shut down your arm’s internals. The shell will still be good, it’s manual. And that will still be as strong as your old one.”

“And that’s it? You replaced my eye with a human one, I see.”

“Kinda. The outer shell is organic, but internally, it offers everything the OfficEye did. HUD, heat signatures, telescopic vision, X-ray.”

“X-ray? That’s new,” he says, glancing at Mittens’ chest.

“Eyes up top, Jonny. You can see all light frequencies, too. The one thing it won’t do is identify people.”

“That’s going to make ID’ing the Slumlord difficult.”

“Well, I removed your Conscience chip. That’s the first thing the Magistrate will scan you for when you arrive. Connection to the outside world.”

“At least it’ll keep Her Eminence off my arse.”

“Trust me, if she wants your arse, she’ll find a way,” Mittens says. “I’ve also spliced your genes. They’ll take a week or two to set in, though.”

“You what? We didn’t agree to that!” Bakker is not impressed.

“No, but if shit goes down, you might want enhanced speed, strength and reflexes, though.”

“Fine. So when do we meet the Magistrate?”


The “less worthy,” as the City likes to call them, were crowding the streets as Mittens led Bakker through. Kids littered the path, playing together while enjoying the little sunlight escaping the blockade of monstrous skyscrapers littering the sky. On every corner, somebody was dealing illegal stimulants or selling their body (the slums are now the only place where you could pay for the company of an organic human, rather than an android knock-off), often both. Denizens of every size, shape, colour and creed were going about their business: business the officer was absolutely certain was illegal, if it was being undertaken outside of the City’s watchful eye.

The deeper Bakker and Mittens trekked deeper into the slums, the more self-conscious the detective felt: more and more eyes fell upon him, watching his every movement.

“I don’t think they like me,” Bakker grumbled.

“It’s because they can smell the stench of officer on you.”

Officers barely stepped foot into the slums, unless heavily backed up and heavily armed, sent there by YutopiCorp to prove a point about these people’s evil ways. An unfortunate byproduct for Bakker was that they don’t trust him.

“Or it’s because they’ve never seen you before. Given we all live in the slums illegally, they’re going to be paranoid,” Mittens explained.

“Shit, what are the odds that someone here has a Conscience chip, or something that can hack the network and bring up my details?”

“Pretty high,” Mittens concedes. “At a guess, I think at least twenty people would have tried it by now.”

“Fuck.”

“Don’t worry that pretty little head of yours, Jonny. I’m sure Her Eminence would have had you scrubbed from the network.”

“What about when I get back to Sector Seattle?”

Mittens shrugged her shoulders. “Then you’re screwed, I guess.” She gestured to her left and led Bakker into an alley. “This way. Don’t speak to the Magistrate, unless he asks you something directly. I arranged the meeting, he trusts me, so please follow my lead.”

The pair turned into the alleyway, and Bakker found himself wishing that Mittens had also replaced his nose so he didn’t have to inhale the air, which smelled like shit melting on a hot summer’s day. Upon reaching the end of the alley, two heavily modded bouncers nodded at Mittens. They glared at Bakker.

The first bouncer extended his arm, moving it up and down, scanning the detective’s body. “Cybernetic arm, cybernetic eye. No Conscience chip.” Turning to Mittens, he added, “Looks like your work. Nice.”

The second bouncer looked at Bakker. His eyes flashed white, briefly blinding the officer. As light spots bounced around his field of vision, Bakker noticed a distinct lack of depth perception. “They shut down my eye?”

“Personalised EMP. Don’t take it personally, they do it to everyone. It’ll wear off in half an hour or so.”

“Except you, apparently.” Bakker shook his head.

“Everyone loves me here.”

The heavily barricaded door behind the security guards let out a mighty rumble as its engine kicked into gear. With a screech, it slowly slid open. The bouncers escorted them down a stark, personality-free hallway and into the Magistrate’s office.

The Magistrate was sitting behind a desk. Wearing a black cloak with a black hood covering a black mask that obscured his face, he turned to Mittens. “You’re late.” His voice sounded inhuman, a modulator disguising it.

“By three minutes.”

“It’s three minutes I could have been doing something else, rather than waiting for you to introduce me to your friend. What did you say his name was?”

“‘Bobo.’” As Mittens told Bakker, nobody uses their real name in the slums.

But ‘Bobo’? That was the best she could come up with? Bakker glared at the technician.

“Bouncers, lock these two up.”

Mittens and Bobo’s fight-or-flight instincts kicked in, and those instincts chose “fight,” for what little it accomplished. Before either could as much as clench a fist, the bouncers gripped them each by the shoulder, jolting enough electricity into their bodies to knock them unconscious.

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