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?

[Tuesday | 25 December 2266]

Over the last couple of weeks, Detective Jon Bakker had been lying low. He was avoiding the Force who were sweeping the entire City for the corrupt Officer, responsible for the deaths of Counsellor Adrit and the Slumlord. Thankfully, the Slumlord could still go outside and breathe in the heavy smog.

Mittens was still crashing in my apartment (and still waking me at ridiculous hours), also trying to lie low. She really hadn’t endeared herself to Her Eminence over those last four months or so. And Paz has moved in too, closing off this little family who decided the loner is the one you want to gather around. Paz told us he’s also lying low after Her Eminence identified Mikel. To be honest, I think he was just lonely.

Over the intervening weeks, Mittens convinced me to let her remove the relay chip again. Apparently, the regular removal and insertion of relay chips can cause brain damage, but I haven’t noticed myself losing too many brain cells. Definitely not as many as during a night on the synthetics, though. We agreed that I was never to have a relay chip installed again. Mittens was concerned about the brain damage; I just wanted to keep Her Eminence out of my fucking head.

When mid-morning came around, a loud rumbling noise filled the room. The rumbling grew louder and louder, and when I looked out the window, my suspicions were confirmed. Shadow had fallen outside, as if night had suddenly fallen. It was a hovership descending towards the building. Shit.

As we all scrambled to get out of the way of the incoming—well, whatever it was that was incoming. There was a loud thud by the front of the building, before the rumble slowly dissipated. The hovership was gone.

Mittens and I each loaded ourselves up with weapons and ventured inside, while Paz remained indoors. Smart man.

As Mittens and I ventured outside, something caught our attention. A six by six-foot crate, wrapped up like a present. There was even a gift tag attached to it—odd, the world moved on from physical gift tags a century ago. I approached the ‘gift’ and read the tag:
Dearest Mittens,
Merry Christmas to such a wonderful body hacker. I hear you’ve been a delightful girl all year. So, please, accept this small gift as a token of my appreciation.
Santa Claus

I showed Mittens the gift tag, and upon reading it, she felt as uneasy as I did. I asked her what she wanted to do, and she opted to open it. The poor thing.

Mittens approached the gift and tugged at the ribbon. The sides of the crate collapsed, and I am still gagging from the smell. I can’t shake the image of what spilled out, either. Heads. Lots of heads. Heads that belonged to Mittens’ two younger brothers, both her parents, to her three uncles and two aunts. To her—until very recently—three surviving grandparents. And to her seven cousins.

Upon seeing the disembodied heads of her entire family, Mittens crumpled into a heap. I tried to console her, but at the end of the day, that was more up Paz’s alley when we got back inside. As Mittens sat on her knees, sobbing uncontrollably, I noticed something else lying amongst the heads: a shuriken. If there was any doubt about Her Eminence’s involvement in the slaughter of Mittens’ family, it soon disappeared.

I walked through the remains, being incredibly careful not to stumble over any of those nineteen heads. I reached the shuriken and picked it up. As I turned to Mittens, a holographic image appeared from the image. It was her Eminence.“Mittens, Mittens, Mittens. Merry Christmas! I warned you what would happen if you fucked with me, so please enjoy having your family join you for Christmas. And before you try anything, let me remind you of something: There is always more that you can lose. I dare you to learn what that is.”

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