Split City Waltz

 I’d like to say that nothing about this job was personal, that the reason I’m bleeding out in the Tech Centre at my former place of employment is purely a professional one. But I’ve got so many strikes racked up already that one more lie might just be what stops me from walking through those pearly gates. And I don’t much fancy the alternative. So yeah, this was personal. To be fair whenever I fall, I tend to fall hard. I’m an all-or-nothing kinda girl.

I woke up when the security chip behind my left ear pinged me at four thirty on a hazy Sunday morning. I started so hard I almost fell off the couch. Figured it for the office sensors at first—a B&E in the early morning light that I’d have no way to stop, tucked up safe in my cube five miles away.Then I heard the door click shut.

“I thought this place had domestic service?”

She was wearing something that looked like it been taken straight off a catwalk model—a sleek fitted suit with puffed up, shimmering detail along the arms. Green and black, the company colours.

“They do,” I told her, sitting up. “But they don’t access doors they don’t have the codes to. They’re polite that way.”

Grinning, she tossed me a thumb drive and started picking things up off the floor. “It doesn’t count as breaking in when the door lock is your birth year,” she said pointedly. “And I need a favour.”

I put the drive on the small table beside me and managed to reach the basin in the corner of the room without so much as a stumble. A bottle that I accidentally kicked clattered along the floor until it hit the concrete in the kitchen and she sighed before bending to grab it.

I stared into the small mirror on the wall. My face was the picture of insomnia, eyes still bloodshot from staring into a monitor just a few short hours before.

I was in the middle of a cold case for a woman who lived a few roads down. Sweet old thing, lost her husband just before the riots. She wanted me to find her son, who’d been part of the protests before everyone went nuts and started cutting themselves open outside the palace. She’d shown me pictures of him back when he was just another yuppie, before the spark of revolution had carried him away. He’d been a nice looking bloke, if you liked that sort of thing.

If he was anywhere, he was in the tunnels—but I’d made a promise, so I would keep looking for as long as she could pay me to.

I washed my face, feeling my fingers graze along skin and the camouflaged tech that had replaced almost half of it, listening to my uninvited guest ask the dispenser for a coffee.

“You have to programme it in manually,” I said, reaching for a towel. “Voice activation is busted.”

Another sigh, then the sounds of her unscrewing the front of the damned thing with a screwdriver she’d fished out of one of the drawers. Which was odd, because I didn’t remember ever having bought one.

I walked the five steps over to where she was now wrist-deep in wires and peered over her shoulder. “What kind of favour?”

She stiffened for a moment but then apparently decided to ignore the impromptu closeness, which took all the fun out of it, so I backed off again. Before the accident, she would have thrown insults at me in an effort to let her work before eventually giving in and letting me distract her. But that bright light had burnt away more than just my skin, and things were different now.

I settled on the counter, rubbing a hand over my hair in an attempt to flatten it.

“The kind that comes with few questions and fast payment.”

Split City Waltz is a cyberpunk, LGBTQ novella available from the 21st of September, via Less Than Three Press.

Need more info? Here are some reviews:

The Lesbrary