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

Not every story comes easy...

[A Committed Relationship | Wednesday, 15 August 2266]

It felt as if someone had sprinkled salt into Bakker’s eyes, the result of the roughly half an hour’s sleep he was able to get overnight. Through his sleep deprived dizziness, he noticed was still only seeing out of one eye: the one hundred percent organic one. There was no doubt in the detective’s mind that it was because of a dampener field inside the cell—it is what the Force does, after all.

A bouncer left a nutrition bar on the floor at some point overnight, a five-star meal befitting of such beautiful accommodation. From the sound outside, the nightlife had now moved on home, long replaced by the bustling of slummers going about their daily business. Bakker determined that as it was now probably closer to lunchtime than breakfast, he should probably consider eating the meal provided to him. Picking up the nutrition bar, the detective looked at the label: “Coffee, includes caffeine.” Apparently somebody in the slum likes him.

As he tore open the wrapper and took a bite, Bakker’s mind wandered back to the last time he was in Sector New York. If Her Eminence had contacted him three days earlier, he would have arrived twenty-five years to the day since he said goodbye to the sector, a comparatively innocent thirty-year-old, excited by the promotion to detective and the opportunities awaiting him in Sector Seattle. How naïve that young officer was.

As Bakker swallowed the latest bite of his brunch, the cell door dinged. Suddenly his mind shot from memories of more innocent times, to wondering what was happening, to trying to breathe. As the door opened, a stasis field filled the cell, trapping Detective Bakker inside. Completely unable to move, he was unable to finish swallowing.

The Magistrate entered the cell, and the stasis field disappeared. His eyes watering, Bakker coughed up the remains of the chewed up nutrition bar, its slimy, phlegm-covered remains hitting the floor with a squelch.

“Take a seat,” the Magistrate instructs.

Bakker does as he is told and sits. “What seems to be the problem, Magistrate?”

“Well, Bobo, whenever an officer of the Force decides they want to join our little community here in the slums, I’m sure you can appreciate we need to take certain measures.”

“I can imagine you would, but I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about,” Bakker lied. “The bouncers ran my diagnostics yesterday, and I don’t believe they would have found anything that implicates me as an officer.”

“That there,” the Magistrate said, “That is Force-speak.”

Bakker shrugged his shoulders, deciding it was better to remain silent than incriminate himself further. Maybe the Magistrate would indicate how much he actually knows, and how much is guesswork.

“So, I’m wondering why an officer who fled the sector twenty-five years ago for a promotion in Seattle would decide he wants to call this slum home.” Through the modulator, Bakker was certain he could hear a smile in the Magistrate’s voice. But the audible smile did nothing to combat his escalating heartbeat. “So, Jon, care to explain yourself?”

Apparently the Magistrate knows a lot, leaving very little to guesswork. As Bakker contemplated his next steps, the Magistrate sat next to him. He slid his hood down, then lifted the cowl from his head, revealing a man of fifty, with a blonde beard, speckled with grey and the baby blue eyes that he has not forgotten over the last quarter century.

“Mikel,” Bakker said, his voice croaking. Looking at his former flame, Bakker was surprised by how little he seems to age over the years. “Wow, you’re still beautiful. You don’t look like you’ve aged more than a decade.”

“I’m in a committed relationship, Jon,” Mikel said. “And take this as your one and only warning: I revealed myself to you to call you on your bullshit. If you utter one word to anybody—I don’t care who—you will feel the full wrath of the Slumlord.”

“So the Slumlord is real?”

“That’s why you’re here? To unmask the Slumlord?” Mikel didn’t attempt to hide his amusement. “Good luck with that, ‘Detective Bakker.’”

Bakker looked directly into his ex-lover’s baby blues. “No, not at all,” he lied. “How much of the news do you get here? Without Conscience chips?”

“We have our means.”

Bakker nodded. “I figured as much. Okay, the incident from a few days ago in Sector Seattle? I was the officer that took down the warehouse.”

“That’s a bold admission while you’re locked up in the slums,” Mikel said.

“Hear me out, okay? There were thirty-eight people when I got there, four dead. Three were self defence, the other was Counsellor Adrit. The man was a paedophile.” Bakker offered enough truth to help sell his lie. “Obviously, the Force didn’t take too kindly to that. YutopiCorp installed Adrit, him being a kiddy rapist be damned. So, I came home before the Force could catch up with me. There have been whispers in the Force that your Slumlord has been bankrolling the Jokezterz, and I was hoping they could offer me protection.”

“Shit, Jon.” Mikel pulls Bakker in for a hug. “I promise you, as long as you’re here, you’ll have my protection, at least. The Slumlord tries not to busy themself with such matters.”

Mikel releases his former flame and puts the cowl over his head, before pulling his hood back up. “Sit tight, Jon. I’ll see to you’re release. The guards will escort you to your accommodation.”

“Thanks Mik—” Bakker begins, before correcting himself. “Magistrate.”

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