[Wednesday | 15 August 2266]
After an entire half hour’s sleep, it felt like someone sprinkled fucking salt into my eyes. Still dizzy as all hell, I was only able to use the original. They must have been using a dampener field—smart; that’s what the Force does.
Evidently, somebody left me breakfast. A nutrition bar. I looked at the label: ‘Coffee, includes caffeine.” Well shit, it turned out that I might actually have a guardian angel there.
As I ate my coffee, my mind wandered back to the last time I was in Sector New York. If Her Eminence had gotten hold of me three days earlier, I would have come back twenty-five years to the day since I left. I never thought I’d be back here, but I never thought I’d be at the beck and call of the City’s kingpin, or whoever the hell she is.
As I finished the nutrition bar, the cell’s door dinged. A stasis field filled the cell, preventing me from doing as much as even scratching my balls. I couldn’t move.
I watched as the Magistrate walked in, and slammed the door shut. The stasis field disappeared. Finally, I could move again, and I gave serious consideration to attacking that fucker.
“Take a seat,” he instructed.
I did what I was asked. Beating the living shit out of the Magistrate while still confined would not have been the smartest move I’d ever made. But probably not the stupidest.
“What seems to be the problem, Magistrate?”
“Well, Bobo, whenever an officer of the Force decides they want to join our little community here in the slums, I’m sure you can appreciate we need to take certain measures.”
“I can imagine you would, but I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.” I lied, worried about how the fuck these assholes made me. “The bouncers ran my diagnostics yesterday, and I don’t believe they would have found anything that implicates me as an officer of the City.”
“That there,” the Magistrate said, “That is Force-speak.”
I shrugged my shoulders. At this stage, I didn’t know what this Magistrate actually knew, and how much was guesswork. Either way, I didn’t want to incriminate myself further.
“So, I’m wondering why an officer who fled the sector twenty-five years ago for a promotion in Sector Seattle would decide he wants to call this slum home.” As he paused, I wondered if he was hiding a smile under that mask. Definitely sounded like it, even through his modulator. “So, Jon, care to explain yourself?” Fuck. Apparently the Magistrate knows quite a lot.
The Magistrate sidled up next to me and sat. He slid his hood down, then lifted the cowl from his head. Under that mask was a man of fifty. He had a blonde beard which was speckled with grey, and those baby blue eyes I could never forget, even after a quarter century.
“Mikel.” I don’t want to appear shocked. I need to be in control. “Wow, you’re still beautiful. You don’t look like you’ve aged more than a decade.”
“I’m in a committed relationship, Jon,” Mikel told me. “And take this as your one and only warning: I revealed myself to you for one reason: to call you on your bullshit. If you utter one word to anybody—I don’t care who—you will feel the full wrath of the Slumlord.”
“So the Slumlord is real?”
“That’s why you’re here? To unmask the Slumlord?” Mikel didn’t attempt to hide his amusement. “Good luck with that, ‘Detective Bakker.’”
“No, that’s not why I’m here, Mikel; I promise you.” Yeah, that promise was broken before it left my mouth. “How much of the news do you get here? Without Conscience chips?”
“We have our means.”
I nodded. “I figured as much. Okay, the incident from a few days ago in Sector Seattle? I was the officer that took down the warehouse.”
“That’s a bold admission while you’re locked up in the slums,” Mikel said. He wasn’t impressed.
“Hear me out, okay? There were thirty-eight people when I got there, four dead. Three were self defence, the other was Counsellor Adrit—the man was a paedophile. YutopiCorp installed Adrit, him being a kiddy rapist be damned.” It helps sell a lie when you’re able to include a little truth. “So, I came home before the Force could catch up with me. There have been whispers in the Force that your Slumlord has been bankrolling the Animalz, and I was hoping they could offer me protection.”
“Shit, Jon.” Mikel bought it. He bought it so well that he pulled me in for a tender hug. I only felt half-guilty. “I promise you, as long as you’re here, you’ll have my protection, at least. The Slumlord tries not to busy themself with such matters.”