It all started with a writing prompt: The phone rings. The voice on the other end says, “We need you again,” then hangs up.
I just started writing, with no clear idea of where it would go or what, exactly, I wanted to write about. I haven’t finished whatever it’s going to be, but one day later, this is what I have so far. Have a read through, and then in the comments tell me where you think it should go from here. Be imaginative! Let’s have some fun with this. 🙂
The phone app rings on my wrist. The voice on the other end says, “We need you again,” then disconnects.
Groggy with sleep, I drag myself out of bed, glancing at the face of my smartcuff that reads 09:48. Seriously? Don’t they know I’m not a morning person? I glare at the softly glowing screen of the device and slumber off to the bathroom of my tiny apartment to splash some water on my face and wake up. After taking care of the first essentials, I then stumble into the kitchenette, lights turning on as I enter.
“Alexa, coffee,” I grumble into the air, and the machine starts heating up in its wall cubby.
“Good morning, Kate. Please allow one minute for the water to reach optimal temperature. Shall I prepare a Kovashi breakfast bar for you?”
The disembodied voice, so perfect in its intonation, obviously intended to be comforting, only serves to further darken my mood.
“Just the coffee.”
I know I should eat something, but another soulless, even if perfectly nutritious, processed protein bar is entirely unappetizing. My tastes run more toward eggs and toast, but my credit limit runs more toward Food Bar, Basic. What I wouldn’t give for some orange juice, real orange juice, not some flavored water generated out of Kovashi’s genetic engineering labs, but since the blight of ’47 that has been out of reach for all but the wealthiest citizens.
While I drink my coffee and hide the tiredness in my eyes with the lightest amount of shadow I can get away with, I ponder what it could be this time. It has been four months since my last job, and my credit is close to running out, as Alexa reminds me each time she orders restock for the kitchenette. Last time they wanted me to escort some businessman to a fancy dinner, keeping an eye out for any trouble, but the only trouble was when the client wanted more than a socially acceptable bodyguard after I’d seen him back to his hotel. I’m pretty sure the bruise I left him with is responsible for my recent lack of work.
Fifteen minutes later, dressed in a form-fitting grey one-piece, hair pulled back into a ponytail and the lightest amount of shadow to hide the tiredness in my eyes, I step out onto the platform of my residential building. A misty drizzle fills the air, and heat rises from the ground level, far, far below me. Across the void rises another apartment block, orange and grey, windows for those lucky enough to afford a view unit facing over the traffic lanes. Every twenty stories a bus platform extends, and on many of them I see other citizens awaiting their rides. Between our buildings a steady stream of buses and aircabs rushes by, with the occasional privately-owned vehicle for those lucky or silly enough to own one, while in the center the billboards drift along, lighting up the building face with their flashing colors and soothing voices exhorting us to buy the latest fashions, or tempting us with impossible excursions to islands that probably don’t exist. The city is not a quiet place, but then, where is?
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The trip from my outer neighborhood to Westlake Center takes almost an hour, as the airbus stops frequently where citizens await on their platforms. Fortunately, it’s nearly a direct shot, and once I reach the downtown core I’m able to descend a few levels below the bus route and find pedestrian walkways that bridge the gap between commercial buildings. I jostle through the crowd, office workers on their lunch breaks and shoppers eying jewelry and electronic gizmos behind thick plate-glass displays, and make my way to the bank of elevators that will whisk me away from the commercial levels.
“Present authorization,” says the not-so-comforting voice of the control panel — no Alexa here — and I wave my smartcuff in front of the flashing sensor pad. A moment later the door opens, then closes behind me, and the elevator ascends rapidly, and I feel the pressure change in my ears, swallowing reflexively to clear them.
I step out into the lobby, and the impossibly beautiful and expensively enhanced receptionist smiles brightly at me.
“Welcome back, Ms Conyers. They’re expecting you in the conference room. I believe you know the way.”
I thank her with a smile of my own — Anita annoys me, but there’s no reason to antagonize her — and walk past. When I enter the conference room with its floor-to-ceiling windows, I pause for a moment to once again gaze upon the sea of buildings leading off as far as the eye can see, far above the constant advertising bombarding the lower levels. A discreet cough reminds me that I’m not here to admire the million-dollar view.
Three suits, two men and a woman, stand at the far side of the large glass and steel table that dominates the room. One of the men I know: Hugo Dresling, my boss, or at least he is whenever I’m on a job for Dresling Personal Services. Hugo’s not a bad guy, but he’s mercenarial at heart, and I’m not completely convinced that all of the personal services rendered through his company are strictly legal. Being an ex-cop — don’t ask, it didn’t work out well — my specialty is client protection, glorified bodyguard, and because I clean up well they like to use me for discreet social situations. Really I think they pick me more to look good at the client’s side at dinners, parties, and meetings than for any actual protection I could provide. Oh well, since getting fired from the force — I told you not to ask, didn’t I? — I can’t be too picky about where my jobs come from these days.
The other two I don’t know. I presume they’re the client. The man is about my age, maybe even younger, late twenties to early thirties I’d say, and he smiles as I walk in. Dark hair, neatly styled, his suit cut to impress. The woman, on the other hand, is closer to Hugo’s age, perhaps in her mid forties, though the only reason I think so is the confidant way she holds herself, the expression on her face that says I’m in charge here. Her hair is severely pulled back into a tight bun, and her makeup is no-nonsense, perfectly applied so that one could be forgiven for not realizing she’s wearing any. I’m immediately self-conscious of my own very rapid preparation this morning, and from the woman’s expression, she can tell. From the flawless complexions and perfectly apportioned features on both of them, I’m pretty sure they’ve spared little expense on upgrades.
“Kate, welcome, come in,” says Hugo. “Allow me to introduce Fiona and Lloyd Devereaux.”
“Ms Devereaux,” I greet her. “Mr Devereaux.” Her grip as we shake is firm, and she holds my hand for a moment longer than strictly customary. I have the sense she is appraising me somehow, and of course, why not? They are presumably here to hire my services, after all. I wonder about their relationship as we all sit down.
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Thank you, darlings! I look forward to hearing your ideas. And, Happy Thanksgiving!