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 | 14 August 2266]

I woke up feeling like shit. At least the bed was more comfortable than the previous night’s. As my eyes focused, I realised I wasn’t in my hotel room. I was in a room that wasn’t actively trying to kill me, which made for a pleasant change. I turned my head, and Mittens was sitting right there, next to me. Fucking hell, we didn’t just…

“No, I never take advantage of customers, outside of charging them far too much for my skills.” She thought my worry was hysterical; I was just relieved that I had reached fifty-five, and have still only fucked a human. “You were too groggy after the procedure to get back to your hotel. But fuck taking the floor, you know; I need my beauty sleep, too.”

Following a shower, my head was still being pounded by a sledgehammer while the rest of me was being repeatedly run over by a steamroller. I look at my bionic arm. It was smaller than the previous one, and didn’t sit flush. Instead, it looked like a pair of iron square sections, slapped together with a ball bearing in the middle, and skeletal digits stuck to the end.

After I registered my complaint with Mittens, she told me to shut up and drink my coffee. She had a point. I reached for the cup with the new arm and shattered the cup. Shit, this thing is powerful, at least.

“Quadruple the strength of standard issue arms,” Mittens told me. “Yours was a couple of generations old too, and YutopiCorp only purchases mass-produced cheap mods for the Force. Definitely not the quality you get with my art.”

I didn’t give a crap about art. “What else does it do?”

“Sonic blasts, shields, the same old shit the OfficArm did for you,” Mittens said. “Plus a few extras I added in, like electrocuting anybody who tries to grab it, a signal scrambler and an EMP field.”

“An EMP would shut me down.”

“No, it would just shut down your cybernetic internals. The arm’s shell will still be good, it’s manual. And that will still be as strong as your old one.”

Mittens also gave me a new left eye. Organic on the outside, robotic on the inside, or some shit. “The outer shell is organic, but internally, it offers everything the OfficEye did. HUD, heat signatures, telescopic vision, the ability to see light frequencies, and X-ray.” As if reading my mind, she added, “Eyes up top, Jonny.”

One thing Mittens eventually pointed out is that my eye won’t identify people for me. That’s a massive downgrade from the OfficEye. She removed my Conscience Chip too, since the ‘Magistrate’ Mittens would introduce me to that afternoon would be hunting for one. Anyone with an active Conscience chip is looked at with suspicion in the slums.

The other thing Mittens did—without my consent, I must add—was splicing my DNA. She won’t tell me what animal she spliced me with, but promised that within a couple of weeks, I’d have enhanced speed, strength and reflexes.

That afternoon, the ‘Unworthy’ as those in the Force and any position of power in the City calls them, crowded the streets. Kids littered the path, playing together while enjoying the little sunlight pushing its way through the blockade of skyscrapers packed into the sky. On every corner, somebody was dealing illegal synthetics or selling their body (the slums are now the only place where you could pay for the company of an organic human, rather than an android knock-off), often both. Denizens of every size, shape, colour and creed were going about their business: undoubtedly illegal business, undertaken outside of the City’s watchful eye.

And they’re all staring at me. Do they know I’m an officer?

“They’ve never seen you before,” Mittens explained. “Since we all live in the slums illegally, you’ve got to expect a little paranoia.”

“Shit, what are the odds that someone here has a Conscience chip, or something that can hack the network to bring up my details?” Paranoia is contagious, apparently.

“Pretty high. At a guess, I think at least twenty people would have tried it by now.”

“Fuck,” I said.

“Don’t worry that pretty little head of yours, Jonny. I’m sure Her Eminence would have had you scrubbed from the network.”

Which works for now, but unless Her Eminence has somehow just cut and pasted my details, reintegrating into society will be fucked.

We reached the Magistrate’s building. Two bouncers were stationed outside, scanned my enhancements, and shut down my system with a personalised EMP. Perfectly normal, Mittens assured me, and only a short-term solution.

“Everyone loves me here.”

The bouncers pushed a button, and the heavily barricaded door behind them let out a mighty rumble as its engine kicked into gear. With a screech, it slowly slid open. The bouncers escorted us down a stark hallway and into the Magistrate’s office.

The Magistrate was sitting behind a desk. Wearing a black cloak with a black hood covering a black mask that obscured his face, he turned to Mittens. “You’re late.” His voice sounded inhuman. An attempt at intimidation? That would work better if it wasn’t obviously a voice modulator.

“By three minutes.”

“It’s three minutes I could have been doing something else, rather than waiting for you to introduce me to your friend. What did you say his name was?”

“‘Bobo.’” ‘Bobo’? That was the best she could come up with?

The Magistrate turned to his bouncers. “Lock these two up.”

My fight-or-flight instincts kicked in, and those instincts chose ‘fight,’ for what little it accomplished. The last I remember is them jolting electricity into me. Not my idea of a good time.

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