The Eyes of Madison Eve
Fear is what you feel, courage is what you do.
I wake up gagging to the smell of petrol fumes and almost bring up my last night’s rations. My head is pounding and fragments of memory flash across my closed eyelids bringing dark images of a face, a knife, a scream, a river of blood. I turn my head and grimace as pain stabs through my temples and I sit up and feel concrete under my butt. Where the hell am I?
There’s concrete all around me and as my vision clears, I realize I’m in an alley, lying behind a dumpster. The smell is choking me and something is pressing against my chest. I push it off and struggle to focus. It’s a human body, its head twisted to an obscene angle. I scramble back and then get up. The alley starts to spin wildly and again I almost bring up my last meal. I still have my hoodie and jeans though and I pat my pockets for some pain meds, stim tabs, anything I can find. All empty. I search though the pockets of the body in front of me. Whoever he is, he won’t miss anything now. My hand closes around a weird lump in his back pocket and I bring out a metal locket in the shape of a heart.
I snap the locket open. Inside is a holo-pic of a young girl, couldn’t be more than ten or eleven years old. She still looked true born in that picture, no cybernetic implants yet, or at least none that were visible. I stare at the pic for a minute, I know every crease of her smile, every line of her face, and every curve of her skin. It’s the face that I still fall asleep thinking of, and the one that comes to me even when I’m unconscious.
‘Sarah.’ I think.
I hear sirens coming closer and look around. I am out of the way of the road, hidden from sight by the dumpster. No-one would know I’m here or that a body is with me unless they actually come around and look. The question is, why don’t I recognize anything? I feel around the back of my neck with my fingers and touch the telltale mark of a Blanker. No wonder I can’t remember anything.
Black market racketeers. I’ve been jumped and set up.
One shot of Blanker and the last 24 hours would be wiped permanently. Someone must have jumped me and given me the shot while I was occupied, probably thinking about Sarah again.
I glance down quickly to the corpse at my feet. Rigor mortis hasn’t set in yet which means I haven’t been here too long. I study where his neck has been broken and recognize one of my own moves. I did this. I’d probably been jumped as I walked past this alley. They’d probably thought I was easy pickings because I’m a woman. Boy were they wrong.
The sirens are getting closer. At least that was one blessing about living in a city where the local law enforcement is overworked and as slow as a paralyzed dog. They gave you time to get away when you actually did a crime.
I activate my retina cam and snap a pic of the corpses face to run it through the city data-net as I make my escape. I run to the end of the alley. I’m still shaky but the adrenaline and air, despite the smell, is helping to clear my system of the drug. They’d stripped me of everything once the Blank took effect. No purse, no keys, no access cards, nothing. The only things they didn’t take was what was inside. I still have my implants but nothing else. Typical. So If I want to get home, I have to do this the old-fashioned way.
I jack the nearest car I can find at the other end of the alley, and pull the skin back on my arm to plug myself into the dash computer.
“Madison Eve, Private Investigator” I say, “ID number 451602.” The computer beeps, then flashes bright red and screams at me.
“Warning!” the voice is twice as loud as usual, “Madison Eve is outside her designated zone. Local authorities are being contacted and will be here within four point three two minutes. Stay where you are!”
I curse loudly and rip the terminal from the dashboard. “The local authorities are already on their way, you piece of junk!” I yell back through gritted teeth. I didn’t realize I was outside my zone. They must have carried me here after the Blank and left me in the alley for pick up with the dead guy when they heard the sirens. No wonder I didn’t recognize the place. At least the computer told me how much time I have.
I fumble under the steering controls for the ignition switch and manage to start the engine. I wrench the joystick upwards and hurdle the car up into the atmosphere just as the cop cars come around the corner. I keep the lights off so the smog and pollution keep me hidden. It’s dangerous to drive straight up with no lights, but far worse for me if I get caught. I switch my retina cams to night vision and pray to any god that listens that I won’t hit something very hard, like another car. The G-forces flatten me against the seat as I shoot upwards and finally, the car pops out of the top of the smog cloud several hundred feet up. Abruptly the engines stall and I have just enough time to steer it onto the roof of the nearest building before it starts to plummet back down. I haven’t survived 30 years in this cesspool of a city just to be cleaned up by a traffic accident.
I exit the vehicle and go down the emergency exit before I find a public access data booth on the street, a clean one. Not clean as in free of garbage, those don’t exist, I mean clean as in not hacked, yet.
Again, I peel the skin back on my arm back and plug myself into the terminal. Information begins to flash past my eyes as my retina picks up the data feed. Words, images and voices, all explode past me wanting my attention. I bypass them all and log into my residence.
“Good evening miss Madison,” says Jeeves.
‘Evening?’ I think. Jeeves’s voice has a cultured English accent. I probably prefer a rich baritone but I can’t be bothered changing him.
“Jeeves,” I say, “I need my location, pronto.”
“Very good miss.” Jeeves has the securest system I know, almost impossible to hack, and trust me, I know about hacking.
A three-dimensional map appears in front of my eyes, showing my location. Whoever had wanted me had taken the trouble of getting me out of my zone, that meant the best thing for me to do was to get back there as fast as possible. With the police less than a block away I can’t take the risk of stealing another car so I head for the subway. I only have an hour left until dark and the military curfew so I have to make it back quick.
More police are in the streets as usual, dressed in riot gear and searching people for Chill Pills. Chill had over taken Meth as the most addictive drug a few years ago and pushing it was like having a license to print money on the black market. I keep my hood up and my head down. Drugs like Chill mess with my implants even more than Blank. I also remember to darken my eye colour, otherwise the bright gold of my eyes might alert the cops to my implants and the they might stop me. Not because implants are illegal but just because they’re assholes like that. I dodge past them and head underground to the subway. It’s dark, crowded and dangerous. A perfect place to hide and I switch my eyes to night vision.
When the apocalypse came it wasn’t sudden, or intense, or even unexpected. When it came, it came subtly and slowly, like a fog on a chill winter’s morning. Things didn’t just get bad, they stayed bad. The population grew, the wars never stopped, the climate never got fixed, and no one took any responsibility. Until finally, like a cancer filled body the world just turned in on itself and we started behaving like ants fighting for the last morsel of food left in a graveyard.
When the governments did step in, they did what they do best and declared martial law. Everyone had zones and numbers and curfews and rations, and that was it. How you lived was up to you as long as you kept quiet and out of trouble. That was where I came in. Officially I was a “Private Investigator”. Unofficially I was a “fixer”. If you had a problem, I could fix it, for a price.
Officially I had been looking into the disappearance of my daughter, Sarah. She’d been murdered: A knife, a scream, a river of blood, all the clues leading into a black-market underground trafficking ring.
Unofficially I had gotten too close and they had tried to get rid of me. The Blank had been meant to keep me under much longer but I must have reacted faster than the dead man had anticipated when he applied it. This is why these implants are going to pay for themselves. The pics of the dead man and the fact that he had this locket would provide all the evidence I needed.
And if that isn’t enough, I now know where to go to look for more.
I find a seat on the semi crowded subway and sit down, my body aches still from the getaway but I mustn’t be thinking straight because I take out the locket and hold it in front of my face remembering Sarah, when a hand suddenly snatches it away and a kid is holding it. He stares at the locket, then his gaze switches over to me and he grins a dirty yellow smile.
“Nice eyes.” He says and extends his other hand. As I watch it compresses and folds in on itself with a series of clicks and out of his wrist comes a long carbon fiber blade. “I’ll trade you them for this locket.”
Instinctively I switch on my retina’s magnification and examine his arm. “I’ll give you a chance to change your mind,” I say, “or I’ll break your wrist, then your elbow, then your shoulder.” The kid just laughs at me, so I calmly reach over and grab the joint just above the blade. With a quick twist I can feel it snap beneath my fingers and the kid screams. After that he changes his mind.
The subway arrives at my stop and I make my way top side to the street and to my usual residence. ‘The Vixen’ is an underground bar and “safe house”. The owner Charlotte is an ex-army brat who used to run a shelter for women and now serves the best sipping whiskey on this side of the city.
“Good evening miss Madison,” says a cultured English accent as I swing through the door. Behind me the sun dips below the horizon, just in time.
“Hello Jeeves” I reply to the house AI system.
“Mads!” Charlotte says as I take a seat at the bar, her broad smile still causes my heart to flutter. She kisses me on the cheek and pours me a glass. I sigh and raise the glass before taking a long drink. “Here’s mud in your eye.”