Author : Duncan Shields

The black non-stick plastic of the cop’s fist presses my fat lips up against my teeth until they split. The drugs from the gas are slowing all this down and adding the colours. I’m seeing so clearly and feeling none of it. My own blood squirts hot into my mouth and I can taste the pennies.

Through all of this I maintain eye contact with where I guess the cop’s eyes are behind the featureless dark face-shield he’s wearing. I can see myself reflected there and warped around in a fisheye way. I’m smiling at myself. I look like a clown in a whorehouse. I look like I’m having the time of my life. I chuckle wetly at that and wink at myself. Looking back, I can’t decide if it was the laugh or the wink that made the cop angry.

The cop’s hardened riot-fist loops around again and this time my head rings like a bell and it all goes dark.

I wake up in the holding van, cuffed to the seat, with a head full of crunched up milk cartons. The effects of the gas have worn off.

This is the third time I’ve been caught red handed by the cops. The first time, I took my behavioural modifier out with a knife during the Black Out in ’76. I was caught employing minors as delivery girls four months later. They took me down hard for that. No sims. I did my time. I got out.

The new behavioural modifiers were in the blood. They couldn’t just be dug out. I was happy. I helped old people across the street. I stopped to feed puppies. I stepped into the middle of arguments and tried to mediate. That’s how I met Jake.

Jake was arguing on the sidewalk near Shacktown. I stopped there and tried to get them to see both sides of the issue. Jake shot the other guy and then shot me in the knee. Seeing me apologize there with one leg useless made him realize that I’d been conditioned.

Well, one good turn deserves another, they say. Jake strapped me to a black table in shacktown and brought in some Doctors With Problems. They gave me a transfusion that scrubbed my veins clean. It’s not an experience I recommend.

Jake took me in and got me going again. He told me about the heist.

We were in the building and it was going well. Only two of the hostages were dead and the creds were being packed into the coffins right in front of us. I guess Jake should have put a few more bullets into that manager guy’s armoured head. It was him who pressed the alarm.

The rockets came up and through the windows into the bank, billowing their green joker gas. The officers came in after that.

Jake is looking at me from across the van with a sheepish smile. I’m going to go down hard for this. Three strikes. I’m out.

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