Shorts smartworld

The Slumlord

Where Detective Jon Bakker is recruited by one of the City's powerbrokers to locate the mysterious Slumlord... But aren't they just a myth?

[Saturday | 11 August 2266]

“Shit.”

I’d had better days. After thirty-four years slaving away as an officer on the Force, I could count on one hand the days that were worse than this one. Now, as these things go, I have lost count of the days that were worse than this one.

A group of Animalz—a terrorist organisation fighting under the belief that humans are simply animals in denial, and our bond with technology is unnatural (and also replaced the ‘S’ with a ‘Z,’ because they think it’s cool)—hacked the City’s Conscience Feed. As such attacks are a once in a decade event, YutopiCorp will not let such a transgression stand. As previous attacks show, hacking the Conscience Feed reduces the public’s faith in the City and civil unrest ensues. Each and every fucking time.

And each and every fucking time, these actions royally piss off YutopiCorp. It’s never personal, they say. But this time it is. The Animalz have kidnapped Sector Seattle Counsellor Adrit. Making matters worse, they broadcast footage of the Counsellor’s paedophilic activities to the entire City.

“I’m sorry Detective Bakker,” the moron on the other end of my transmission said. “The Sector Seattle Force is currently preoccupied with stopping the Animalz.” Despite my following a trail of breadcrumbs to this stronghold. Despite these asswipes unloading their ammo in my direction.

After dispatching the enemies out front, I saw the Animalz had retrofitted this warehouse to meet their needs. It is now a labyrinthine collection of halls, walls and doors, designed to throw any invaders off their game. Completely low tech, which goes against the conventional wisdom of the City. But clever—you can’t hack a ‘dumb’ door that needs a physical key.

My OfficEye picked up two, no, three heat signatures. Shit, four of them. Okay, no, it was only three. The blue neon light bouncing through the infinite prisms of raindrops before flowing into the stronghold’s windows made it difficult to tell. But there were definitely three heat signatures, and they were approaching the door directly to my left.

As the door unlatched, I had my pistol at the ready, my finger pressed against the trigger. The door opened, and I released my grip. Those heat signatures belonged to children. Shit, the Animalz were keeping kids at their stronghold. Human shields and decoys, no doubt.

Now I needed to hunt these Animalz while babysitting fucking children. My OfficEye scanned them, and they were unidentifiable; likely young victims of the Sector Seattle slums. At least they didn’t have bombs implanted inside them, like snotty little Trojan Horses. That happened once, and yes, it was one of those days I include in my one-handed count.

“What the fuck are you kids doing here?” I asked. Maybe my bedside manner could use a little work.

“We live here,” the eldest told me.

“What? With Animalz?”

“We’re all Animalz here,” the youngest one answered. “Are you?”

I showed the kids my holographic badge, and they trembled with fear. What have these animals—sorry, Animalz—been teaching their kids?

“Don’t shoot us!” the middle one pleaded.

“If I was a bad guy, I would have already shot you. I’m here to help.” They needed reassurance.

“What? You’re here to 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?”

The kids led me deep inside the labyrinth, directing me to an area the terrorists call ‘the Studio.’ Thirty-two heat signatures. Fuck my life, some days.

I pointed my arm—the cybernetic one on the right—at the door to the Studio and fired a sonic blast. As the door blew open, I then generated a hard light riot shield, which absorbed each round of gunfire the Animalz fired in my direction.

  “Cut the feed, or I will,” I told them. As they looked at me quizzically, I withdrew a nanobomb and placed it gently on the ground. I punched the code into my arm, which sent an EMP throughout the stronghold. It shut down all the tech inside, including my own.

“Adrit’s a goddamn paedophile,” one of the Animalz told me. “The City knows this and they don’t give a shit!”

“I do,” I 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 one yelled. The fuck?

In what was the biggest mistake of my career—all thirty-fucking-four years of it—I addressed 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 this, you’re now number one on YutopiCorp’s most wanted list. Get out; get your kids out; get as far away from here as possible.”

As the Animalz fled, I approached the Counsellor. Bruised, bleeding, barely conscious. I took out my pistol and squeezed the trigger. One shot between the eyes, and he was dead. A dishonourable death for a dishonourable man.

With only seven minutes until the explosion, it was time for me to get clear of the warehouse.

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