Doing something a bit weird today by “continuing” the previous tale of cyberpunk detective Liz Harwall and her partner Adrian Johns (part 1 of that story). I thought it would be fun to go back in time to their first mission. Part 2 will come tomorrow!
The water is cold as I dip my hand in, still brisk from the harsh winter. I shake the droplets off and slide my glove back on. The suit seals, scanning quickly and heating the glove to regulate my skin temperature. The wind rustles my hair, a gentle breeze for a gentle day, and I sigh. I could stay here forever.
Johns is waiting for me on the porch of the cabin, his face serious. I nod to him, still not sure how to act, how to fill the shoes of the role they’ve given me. A vet and a newbie. What a duo we’ll make.
I busy myself inside, checking our gear and cleaning my helmet. It feels weird to wear this suit, like I’m an imposter in a world I’m not ready for. I’ve only been a detective for a week… Training never prepares you for the real deal.
Johns comes in after a minute, standing in the doorway behind me. I might not have heard him except for the enhanced perception granted by the gear. Alert, motion behind you! Each movement he takes is tracked with pressure on my back, like his eyes are literally boring into me. I try to push it out of my mind, focus on what I’m doing, not let him see how nervous I am.
He lets me sweat, taking his sweet time to walk around the table into my field of view, knowing full well I’m getting alerted to his every move. I consider calling him on it, telling him I’m nervous enough about my first mission without him antagonizing me, but that would show weakness. Weakness isn’t tolerated here. Weakness gets you dead.
We work in silence, the soft click of equipment as we check every piece for malfunctions, minimize that deadly risk. I frown, testing the connection of wires in my side cannon, not liking the motion. Could shake loose if I take a tumble. I pop the case open and pull out a small toolkit. I can feel Johns watch as I solidify the connection and secure the wire to the back wall, sticking it with enough adhesive to keep there for the next hundred years.
“Smart,” he says, nodding as I pop the case back together.
I shift awkwardly in my seat, not sure how to take the compliment. “Thanks.”
His face cracks into a wry smile. “Relax, kid. This mission should be a breeze. I’ll get you home safe to Mommy and Daddy.”
My temper flares, responding for me before I can stop it. “Keep talking and I’ll send you back to yours in a sandwich bag.”
His laugh is full and unexpected as I flush crimson. “I, uh, that’s not what I- it’s a reflex that- I’m sorry.”
“It’s fair play, Harwall. Last partner was a robot. Good to see the academy didn’t rob you of your anger.”
I cringe. Way to go, Liz. Losing your cool on the first fucking mission. “It won’t happen again, Johns.”
He shakes his head, putting down the blaster he’d been working on and looking me in the eyes. “Anger makes you strong, kid. Don’t lose it.”
I allow myself half a smile. Maybe this partnership with work out after all.