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

Not every story comes easy...

[Just Another Night in the Slum | Saturday, 1 September 2266]

It had been over two weeks since Bakker’s release from the slum’s makeshift prison. In this time, he hadn’t seen or heard a single word from Mittens. The Magistrate had provided his assurance that he released her from her cell at the same time he was, but as both a new occupant of the slums and a former officer within the Force, he would not be given a tour of the prison. Not that the (apparently former) detective suspected Mikel is lying to him. Despite the change to his station in life over the last two-and-a-half decades, the Magistrate had always been upfront with his former flame.

Less forthcoming, however, were the few new friends Bakker had managed to make over the last fortnight. Or were they simply acquaintances? Bakker had been keeping them at an arm’s length; keeping his association with the Force a secret. As a deep undercover detective, the last thing he wanted to do was blow his cover. Still, while he had previously infiltrated enemy strongholds and gained their trust, he was working with incredibly untrustworthy people.

The people in the New York Sector slums—and this may or may not be unique to the sector, he reasoned—did not appear to the detective like untrustworthy people. Some of the people were down on their luck, chewed up and spat out by the system designed to look after them. Others were born into hard times, never having had the money to live in the City above. For others, life in the slums was a conscious decision. Why they would ever leave the comfort of the City was beyond Detective Bakker, but after the Adrit situation, he had been starting to understand their distrust of YutopiCorp.

Still, Jon had a job to do: locate and identify the Slumlord and report back to Her Eminence. Bakker’s mind wandered to all the people he had discussed the Slumlord with, all of them clueless to his identity; none of them having even set their eyes upon him. His thoughts were interrupted by a splash of water hitting the top of his head, then another and another. He looks down and sees his reflection in the puddles on the ground, left over from the morning’s torrent of rain. The neon reflecting back at him as the puddles shimmer with each drop, Bakker spies someone scaling the building behind him. They looked young.

Examining the kid from a distance, Bakker zoomed in using his telescopic vision. The kid was male, aged about seventeen. Currently outside the seventeenth storey, his cybernetic claws penetrate the building’s facade. A gun tucked into the back of his pants, hard light daggers strapped on the inside of each shoe.

“Damn it,” Bakker grumbled before running towards the building.

His feet splashing through the puddles, Bakker edged closer to the building. Looking up, the detective saw the kid was now outside the twenty-eighth floor. Sprinting harder, the detective noticed his momentum increasing at an unnatural pace: the genomic splicing had now set in to his DNA, and he was enjoying the increased strength and agility that came with it.

Reaching the building, Bakker leapt from the ground and towards the building. As he reached the window outside the second storey, Bakker gripped the wall beside it with his bionic arm, the brick crumbling around his iron fingers.. The kid was now at the twenty-ninth storey, and still moving. That only left the penthouse on the thirtieth floor. While it provided quite the view of the slum, the monolithic buildings crammed throughout the City’s skyline blocked any further view, reminding everybody in the slum about their lowly station.

As the rain intensified around the officer, his hand began to slip from the wall. His natural hand wasn’t doing much to hold him in place. As the kid smashed his way inside the penthouse, Bakker used all his might to propel himself upwards, and again grabbed the building. Third floor, and the officer did it again. Fourth floor.

Eventually, Bakker reached the thirtieth s storey. He was only two minutes behind the kid, but worried that this was possibly two minutes too late.

As Jon launched himself inside the building, there was the kid standing at the foot of a bed with his gun aimed directly at its inhabitants: Mikel Matrox and an unidentified male. Between this mystery and the identity of the kid, Bakker found himself wishing he still had the ability to identify them.

“Where is he? Where’s the Slumlord?” the kid asked Mikel. “And where the fuck’s the Magistrate?”

“I…I have no idea,” Mikel responded. Despite knowing that Mikel is the Magistrate, Bakker found the lie obvious. He hoped the kid would buy it, though. He was hopped up on enough illegal synthetics that he didn’t even notice Bakker’s intrusion.

“You’re lying!” Okay, maybe the kid’s more perceptive than Bakker hoped.

“He’s not lying,” Bakker said. Bakker had always been the better liar than his ex.

The kid spun around to face Bakker. The synthetics in his system were causing his face to twitch, along with his cybernetic enhancements.

“You’re him! I know you are. You’re him, aren’t you?”

Bakker couldn’t determine whether the kid thought he was the Magistrate or the Slumlord, but as soon as the kid rushed him, the detective’s priority changed. He just had to survive.

The frenzied teenager extended his claws and let out a flurry of swipes, determined to tear Bakker apart. The detective blocked each one of the kid’s attacks with his cybernetic arm, sparks flying with each attack. Determined to change the stakes of the scuffle, Bakker grabbed hold of the kid’s left wrist with the cybernetic hand on his right, then the kid’s left wrist with his unmodified hand. Reeling the youth in, Bakker then released his right hand’s grip, and fired an energy pulse at the teen, sending him reeling.

Bakker looked at the stunned kid. “What are you doing here, kid?”

“He’s not one of ours.” Mikel and his companion had finally climbed out of bed. “He’s a citizen of the City.”

“Who sent you?” The detective was determined to get an answer.

The kid spun around after hearing a crash. The penthouse’s front door crashed to the floor, and everybody in the bedroom could hear footsteps approaching at a rapid pace, before the bedroom door blew open. There, in all her glory, stood Mittens.

After giving the group a nod, Mittens launched herself at the kid. Both combatants, with their claws extended, exchanged blows, metallic claws clashing against each other. Eventually, Mittens, after seeing an opening, launched herself at the kid. After embedding the claws on her right hand in the kid’s stomach, her left hand ripped at the kid’s jugular. The kid hits the floor, lifeless.

“Mittens, what the fuck?” When you’re deep undercover and see somebody commit murder, you need to fight the urge to take them in. Bakker fought this urge with every fibre of his being.

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