Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The walls are clad in something cheap that’s meant to look like metal. The table I’m attached to has one leg bolted to the floor. Likewise the chair, but I’m not tethered to that. The door looks like it might actually be metal, but the frame is wood and the hinges are on the inside. Whoever signed off on this ‘secure room’ needs stabbing. With something blunt. A lot.
The police sergeant sat opposite me is the first combat trained anything I’ve met in the last nineteen hours. He’s looked through the notes and is now watching the video for the second time.
“Is that the incident scene video or were they monitoring the room?”
He pauses the playback and smiles at me.
“Incident, miss. The Sunset Apartment Complex is one of the rare clean operations in this city. By clean I mean they change the laundry between guests, have a two-hour minimum on all rooms, and don’t eavesdrop.”
Back he goes to watching the video. Time passes. He watches it again. If he goes for a fourth pass, I may cry. Or kill. It’s fifty-fifty at the moment.
Putting the tablet down on the table, he points to it.
“You said you hit him once. Difficult to reconcile that with breaking both arms, nine ribs, and his jaw. What did you hit him with?”
“I said I attacked once, not hit. Completely different thing.”
He nods.
“I’m familiar with the terminology. Give me it field report style, Specialist.”
Ah-ha. Combat trained ex-officer.
“Twenty hundred hours. I was impersonating a normal woman looking for a one-night stand. The target landed his tight buns on the stool next to me and flashed a full set of Purple Devils ink. As they were the rivals of my outfit, Nighthawks, I thought I’d found a way to unwind without risk to persons or property. We had the regulation three drinks, then adjourned to Sunset Apartment 312.”
He raises a hand.
“Purple Devils being the Mars Rangers, Nighthawks the First Spacebourne?”
I nod. He gestures for me to continue.
“On our way up to the room I vetted him. Being unable to detect combat enhancements, I placed him as a stealth operator, likely Recon team: power and precision. Just what I needed.”
The hand goes up again.
“Just sketch me the intimacy.”
“I thought he was testing when he offered a fourth drink. Nearly backed off when he drank, but it had been a while since I unwound. We were both up for it until he started strangling me. That kicked me straight into active response. I attacked. He wasn’t Special anything: he broke.”
The man grins.
“I think the term is erotic asphyxiation.”
“Can’t help how my combat enhancements interpret soft action.”
He sighs.
“Not your fault you ended up with vermin.”
I nod, then can’t resist.
“Speaking of rats that shave, which one signed off on this room?”
He laughs.
“My predecessor. I’m Manuel Tegua. Formerly a Captain in the Sixth Armoured.”
“Your mob lit up Trabanth City to cover the withdrawal that got my mob decommissioned.”
“Wasn’t up for letting the turncoats kill more, no matter what the ceasefire orders said. They decommissioned me, too. With no pension, I had to get a job.”
He waves his hand, indicating this place.
“Now I get to do good with only occasional violence.”
Nothing to lose: ask once.
“Need any veteran Special Weapons types?”
He grins.
“Actually, I do. But you’ll be on probation until the caution for last night expires.”
I salute.
“Offer accepted, sir. When’s lunch?”