“So, what happened?”
“Yes, Miss, why did you do it? Why did you do any of it?”
Why did I do any of it? I knew the answer to this question but I thought it would be evident by now, Inspector.
“Why do you think I did it?”
“I ask the questions here, Miss.”
“I mean you’ve been chasing me down for months now, detecting after whatever trail I leave. I hear investigators as good as you often get into the minds of their prey and understand their reasoning better than anyone, sometimes even better than themselves.”
Inspector, you looked tired, I wanted to have pity on you but I wasn’t fairing so well either, as I’m sure you rightfully remember.
The room was completely white and my arms were forced to wrap around my body by the likewise white straight jacket.
I wasn’t crazy. Not clinically at least, but you already knew that, that was why you were here after all, asking me why I did it.
“Listen,” you whisper, shuffling your way close to me, “I could get them to make this place a lot more comfortable if you’d just give me a reason.”
I carry my head closer and the short chain connecting it to the wall rattles, but it’s enough, my face is an inch away and I can feel your breath, you had something spicy.
“Just a reason?”
You nod, your eyes sparkle with hope and relief. She’s finally cooperating- I’m sure you thought.
“But a meaningful reason for my actions would constitute sanity, is that what you want? To convict me to the fullest, brutal extent of your law? To have me recycled?”
The light died in your eyes that instant. You closed your beat-up jotter, stuffed your pen in your Jacket pocket and stood. “As a show of good faith, I’ll have them move you to a suite anyway. I’ll be back soon, Miss.”
A show of good faith. I used to believe in that, Inspector. Now? Well, I’d sooner call it a shitty bribe than anything I’d want to trust in the slightest.
“See you soon, Inspector.”
Of course, I hadn’t the slightest clue the next time we’d meet, I’d be the one asking the questions. But that was simply one of life’s pleasant surprises.
“Are you sure?”
I widen my smile and imagine a twinkle in my eyes.
“Yes sir, the new heart has fully acclimated to my body, my doctors have given me all the approval I need to get back to learning medicine.”
“If you aren’t ready, there’s no hurry getting back to school, Seara, we can continue to holo-record the classes for you and have your brother pick it up.”
“There’s no need for that any longer, Professor. Besides, I’d really like to be around humans that aren’t my brother.”
The Professor snorts at the confession, “Very well, I’ll inform the others of the good ne-”
The door swings open, the bright light burns my retinas as my dearest brother, Theo, clumsily tosses a mop into the broom closet.
“Oh! Sorry! Just returning this mop.” His head stuck out of the small generated hologram of my professor, “Having another one of those meetings are ya?”
“Theo!” I proceeded my outraged cry with a kick to his abdomen, shoving him out of the already dreadfully confined space, “How many times do I ha-”
The beeping and light vibrations of the band on my wrists interrupts my scolding, I turn my attention to it and across the now frozen hologram form of my Professor is a red reminder that I’d run out of credits on my band.
Frustrated, I close all the floating red and blue notifications and face Theo, “What are you even doing back here? Who is watching the register? We can’t get robbed by your friends again.”
He stands, dusting himself off with an annoyed look, “I’ve told you, whoever robbed us that night wasn’t any of my friends, my friends aren’t robbers, Sea.”
Not bothering to hide my disbelieve, I slam the closet door and walk past him, he takes step beside me and trots ahead toward the register.
“Going back to school?” he asks, leaning on the counter with an uncertain look on his face-I wasn’t busy enough with inventory to miss it.
“Well yeah, I’ve got to get back sometime.” The look turns sad, but I find it cute, I leave my side of the counter and go to him, taking his soft but calloused hands in mine, “Listen, I know it’s going to be tough, but I’ve only one year of studying to do before I can start practicing even low-level medicine. But that’ll return us some credits and we can invest in the store, maybe even have another branch. And that will get us the credits we need to buy you actual hover pads, the good kind.”
He looks away but still holds on, “It’s just, you’re always so distant and away whenever you’re in study mode.”
“Well yeah, I can’t afford any distractions.”
“Not my point, but sure.”
“What is your point?”
“My point is…it’s going to be really boring.”
I can’t help giggling, “Is that your way of saying you’re going to miss me even though I’m here? You don’t have to answer that, I know it’s true. But you don’t have to worry, I’m going to be here whenever you need me for something…something important and you have lots of stuff to do while you manage the store, the TV is always on, watch something.”
He rolled his eyes at the suggestion, “We can’t afford the good stuff remember?” he huffed.
“Well, I’m sure you’ll figure something out.” I give him a hug, my head lying on his chest because he’s about two heads taller than I, “Now though, I’ve got to head over to Sammie’s and prepare for school all over again.”
The streets were littered with people, many greeted hellos here and there but the rest knew to mind their business, just like the cars that periodically flew overhead did, despite that being illegal. This wasn’t a safe neighbourhood, to say the least.
But I grew up here, in the jagged storms of the gang wars, police raids, discrimination, class division and overall oppression of everyone that wasn’t like the majority, so crossing over a few unconscious and possibly dead bodies as I trotted on to my favourite vendor wasn’t something I or anyone that had stayed in the neighbourhood for at least a week would be surprised to do.
Someone large, warm and a bit wet hugs me from behind, slightly lifting me off the ground for a single spin.
“Sammie!!” I call out, holding onto my friend’s large arms.
He sets me down and ruffles my short mop of hair, “How’s my little paddy doing?”
“I’m great! In fact, I’m here to get set for a year of school.”
“Really? Well that’s good to hear, although, is that new heart beating alright? Bum-bum, bum-bum, bum-bum. Eh?”
Sammie was a sufficiently aged burly man with a full bushy beard and an artificial left eye that stuck out even more than his beard. After my father was murdered, he took it upon himself to raise Theo and I well enough that we could handle the store on our own.
“Yes, Sammie, the heart is all fine, in fact, it’s so fine I’m ready to head back to school.”
“Ahh, I see, so that’s why you’re here huh.” He pouted. “Should’ve known you wouldn’t come over just to give me a hug and be cute.”
“Oh, c’mon now Sammie, you know it’s not like that at all, I promise I’ve just been really busy getting the shop straight and pep for my return to school, you know Theo is no good at that stuff.”
He let out a snort and leads me into his shop or rather kiosk. We pass through a gate and back through a little hut filled with all sorts of gadgetry, all likely to be weapons or parts of weapons.
Sammie was one of the men and women who came together to bash some heads together. Here in our little…village? Town? Whatever, we were run by council of rather incorruptible, productive and dangerous members of society and Sammie was one of the council members.
“So, what do you want? The usual?”
I tap my wrist band and the list I’d prepared beforehand comes up, “Here, think you can get me any of these?”
He hums and scratches at his rightfully itchy beard before huffing a sigh and slapping his knee, “Well I’ll be damned if I can’t try. These aren’t like the others you’ve brought to me though; I can tell from just their names they’ll be difficult to get, might not even get any this time…just so you know.”
I nod, flick my wrists making the holo disappear, “I know, I’m advancing-”
“Quite rapidly too.”
“I’m prepared to do it the hard way if I have to.”
He bursts into a fit of laughter, exaggeratingly wiping a tear, “That’s my girl, these textbooks and their contracts, it’s like they don’t want people learning about anything these days. So much for the geniocracy.”
I shrug, I couldn’t help that society had been deliberately putting censors on the things people could learn without registering with a school, a library, a commission, a bank for the loan you’ll need to take out to purchase the knowledge needed and a lot more things that involved signings.
I couldn’t help it but Sammie could. As low-key as he was, co-running a village, a town, whatever, Sammie had lots and lots of contacts from his days as…Hell if I know, he just did, and it proved useful to my education. Sammie was willing to get me all the…illegally downloaded textbooks and learning apps on my wrist band and I was quick to gobble them all up. I had an ambition after all.
To become a Doctor and rack up lots of merits.
Or at least, just have a better life than I do now, a good one, a bright and enviable one.
“Thanks Sammie, I’ll drop by with Theo next time.”
“You do that!”
I pop out Sammie kiosk and head out the gate. As I trot my way through the busy market streets and weave past the vendors I fantasize of life after my first degree.
I’d get a job or an internship even, get paid and have credits coming in on the side from the store, enough to perhaps have Theo give school another go, but if not, it’ll be enough to get another credit making shop in a less criminally active district.
Not to say people didn’t spend here, it’s just that, our store didn’t sell the products most people wanted to have; Guns and drugs.
It wasn’t so unexpected to have your store or home robbed in town, in fact, it had become expected and store owners as well as unfortunate residents, had taken to preparing for robberies. Traps, alarms on important entryways and the cheapest security, a gun.
During the early years of Sammie and the council’s regime, I often felt unsafe walking the streets and rightfully so too. With everyone having a weapon of some sorts in their pockets and I and my brother having none, well, it was wise to be afraid.
But not anymore though. The first and last time someone messed with us and let us live, Sammie was quick to throwback. We were still kids then and quite new at being orphans too, Sammie couldn’t exactly take us in and we didn’t want to impose on him either, so he gave us the next best thing; Physical training. He hammered self-defence into our skulls and muscles and now I could stroll the streets knowing I could easily take down one or two of unfortunate folk with too many funny ideas.
At least I hoped so, I’d never been in an actual fight but it seemed that tonight was going to be my first.
Someone grabs me by the arm and hair and pulls me into an alley where another pair of hands caught my rapidly kicking legs and flailing arms. I made to scream but only a squeal made it out as something that tasted like it hadn’t seen water in years was stuffed into my mouth.
I was hauled into the boot of a car like a stubborn animal, muffled screams and bound limbs.
This wasn’t a fight; it was a kidnapping.