[Thursday | 6 December 2266]
I’d been back in Sector Seattle for a little more than 72 hours. During this time, there had been no word on the Slumlord’s whereabouts. Maybe Sector New York’s Slumlord did the best they could; maybe they lied to my face to get me the fuck out of their town.
But in my sleep, my mind was, for once, unencumbered by the Slumlord. Instead, I was dreaming. Dreaming of a time twenty-five years ago; a time before I left Sector New York for the greener pastures of Sector Seattle. Mikel was there with me, also twenty-five years younger. As much as I struggled to remember the young man’s beauty, it crystallised in my dreams. He kissed me. I kissed him back. As things grew more passionate, our shirts fell to the floor, then our pants, and then our underwear. We caressed, and then—
—Shit, I was woken up. Fucking Mittens!
“Do I look like a tech?” It wasn’t Mittens; that made a nice change. It was… Mikel?
Upon seeing Mikel, I leapt towards him and assaulted his mouth with my tongue. He jerked his head back, then his palm met my cheek.
“What the fuck, Jon? You know about Paz, and even if you didn’t, that’s not okay. Not okay at all.”
As I rubbed my stinging cheek, I knew he was right. “I… I’m sorry. I was just a little out of it. Sudden wake-up and all.” Not technically a lie, and it’s a better response than ‘You woke me up just as I was having a sex dream about you.”
Mikel sat silent for a moment before speaking. “Can I trust you, Jon?”
“No, I mean it. Can I trust you? Are your loyalties with the slums, or with the Force?” he asked. “Or is it all about Her Eminence?”
“How did you know about that?”
“Mittens. She outlined everything while you were gone.” I nodded; by this point, nothing Mittens shot her mouth off surprised me. “But can I trust you?”
I paused before answering. “Yes. The Force is about oppression, and the slums are full of—well, maybe not good, not all of them, at least—people. Her Eminence needs to be stopped, not helped to tighten her grip on the City. Yes, Mikel, you can trust me. I promise you.”
Mikel leant in and kissed me on the lips.
“But what about Paz?”
“Oh, we’re open. Hadn’t I mentioned it?” Mikel shifted around awkwardly. At first I thought it was the kiss, but it wasn’t. “There’s something we need to discuss, Jon. I’ve had a talk with Mittens, and we agreed she’ll install a new relay chip.”
“What? You agreed? It’s my fucking head!”
“And you’ll be dead if you don’t produce the Slumlord, Jon.”
“Well, they’re not really making that easy, are they?”
“Well, I am doing my best, you know.”
“What?” Did he just say what I think he said?
“I’m the Slumlord, Jon. I went to ground after you escaped from the tunnels. Always have been, at least since the last Slumlord passed twelve years ago. I was the Magistrate; found his body. It was cold. So I stripped him and took the mantle. Nobody can know this, the Slumlord is a figure. They die, they get replaced, and nobody’s any the wiser. To keep that dirty little secret, I kept the Magistrate role as well.”
“Well, fuck me sideways.”
“Jon, Mittens is on her way to replace your relay chip. Once she’s done the job, you’ll need to contact her Eminence, and tell her you’ve located me. Meet me at the top of my building, midnight tomorrow. Saturday. Friday night. Ugh, whatever.”
Mikel turned his back to me and left. I had so many questions, but he wasn’t offering answers.