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?

[Sunday | 2 December 2266]

Ah, Sector Seattle, the home of neon-soaked rain. The trip back took three days, courtesy of me taking the scenic route to avoid the Force, or anybody else Her Eminence might consider throwing my way. Mikel was kind enough to loan me a vehicle, so I wouldn’t have to risk a flight. Not that it mattered, as I was about to learn as I reached the sector’s outskirts. Upon hitting these outskirts, traffic had ground to a halt, moving at a snail’s pace.

After three hours, I had moved all of two hundred metres. Barely nothing, but it got me close enough to see that the City has officers patrolling the border. I was certain they were looking for me and chuckled about how I used to be tasked with such jobs. They were checking everybody’s details against the Conscience database, and it would only be a matter of time until they located me.

I heard humming coming from above and looked up at the sky. Not one, but two AIs were scanning the vehicles for me. These ‘AIs’ are about the stupidest form of artificial intelligence. They should have fallen into obsolescence decades ago, but the Force keeps them around, primarily for two reasons: First, grunt work where you need soldiers to point their weapons and shoot; second, for matters considered too sensitive for officers who might shoot their mouths off. Either scenario would have been pretty fucking terrible for me.

As the artificial dumbasses scanned the surrounding cars, I unbuckled my seatbelt. It was only a matter of time until they found me, and I sure as shit wasn’t going down without a fight. I watched as one of them flew away from the other, towards the Officers, no doubt to advise them that they had me. The other AI descended slowly before landing outside the driver-side door.

The AI grabbed the door. Sure, it was locked, but these machines were strong. So strong that it ripped the door from its hinges. I extended my arm, ready to fire a sonic blast at it, but its free hand grabbed the arm and shoved it out of the way. As its hauntingly inhuman face (technically an incredibly realistic human reconstruction, but belied by its dead eyes), looked at me, it spoke.

“Target Jonathan Bakker acquired.”

“Fuck you, tin can.”

Still holding me by my cybernetic arm, the AI launched itself back into the sky, bringing me with it.

When the artificial idiot flew me into Sector Seattle, I was a little confused. I was certain I would be answering to Her Eminence. Instead, I reasoned, they must be taking me to the station, where I am sure I would have been treated fairly by my fellow Officers. However, we passed over the station, and instead landed in Seattle’s Slums.

“What the fuck?”

“Silence, Jonathan Bakker.”

I found myself standing atop the slum’s clocktower, looking at the Slum’s denizens going about their night’s business: partying, prostituting themselves, exchanging synthetics. I used to look at them with pity, cast offs from society banding together to make their situation worse. But by this point, I was looking at them and recognising something: they’re free.

As I watched them scurry about, I heard a voice behind me, heavily modulated.

“Greetings, Detective,” they started. “If you turn around, you’ll be dead before I throw you off the building. However, if you listen to me, and answer my questions, we won’t have a problem.”

I nodded. I had to fight the reflex to turn my head. “Okay.”

“I believe you’ve been spending your time in Sector New York looking for my counterpart.”

Their counterpart? This is another Slumlord? I asked the question, but my words were drowned out by the clocktower striking twelve.

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