A Couple Questions

“It’s raining, Detective,” said her assistant. “Bring a coat.” The voice was only in her head, but when the neurons were cajoled into firing in just the right sequence the effect was no different than a face to face conversation. Reality was only a matter of interpretation—always had been. Take the rain, for instance.

Brigid pulled a woolen gray bridge coat around her, leaving the buttons undone. Functional leather boots, a worn brimmed hat, and two modified Kohlenrose NX-4’s—one holstered beneath each shoulder—were the other key components of the only outfit she ever wore. She stepped out of her apartment, crossed the concrete outdoor corridor to the grated metal staircase, and descended to the street.

What passed for rain these days was something between a heavy snowfall and a dust storm, and it didn’t leave you so much wet as oily. With everything covered in a slick sheen it made it harder for people to run from her. It also made it harder to pin them down if she managed to catch them. So the rain was a wash. With no consistent advantage or disadvantage it was an irrelevancy. Neutral. If there was one thing Brigid hated it was neutrality. Pick a damn side.

She walked through the narrow alleys of the city, traversing their irregular intersections like a white blood cell through plaque-restricted arteries. The plaque wasn’t her concern; she was hunting for cancer. She stepped under the awning of a flophouse and leaned against the stone wall.

“You going inside?” asked a salacious voice.

She turned to find a wiry twenty-something who looked like Oliver Twist after ten hard years, a flirtation with sobriety, and an immensely focused relapse. “Fuck off,” she said. He fucked off. She flipped up her coat collar and spoke under her breath to her assistant. “I thought you said he was at the Foxglove.” It was an outdoor joint across the street, ostensibly named for the way everything on the menu tasted like ammonia and hit your stomach like a gut punch.

“The owner brought him back to the kitchen,” said the AI in her head, “but this establishment only exits to the street.”

Just then, Windsor Apanot walked out of the Foxglove. And looked right at Brigid. Shit.

“Hey,” she said, “I just want to ask you a couple questions—” but he was already slipping and sliding down the alley at what approximated a sprint. She took off after him but didn’t get more than two steps out from under the awning when she slipped on the oily pavement—tough-grip boots my ass. She scrambled back to her feet just in time to see him disappear behind a corner. She built up some momentum and drew her NX-4’s.

When she rounded the corner she saw the lead he’d gotten and knew she couldn’t catch him, so she haphazardly started pulling triggers. Luckily, people around here knew to make scarce when someone went running in the rain, so there were no bystanders to hit.

One of the NX-4’s failed to fire—cheap mods, got what she’d paid for. But the other worked like a charm. Good enough. The mods allowed it to fire tiny custom flechettes that were fitted with a locator in the tail. The darts themselves pumped out a mild numbing agent. The prick wouldn’t even feel the…well, the prick.

Brigid carefully wound her run down to a standstill and caught her breath as she leaned on her knees. “Did I hit him?” she asked.

“Yes,” the AI told her. “Twice. Tracking underway.”

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