Jenkin twirled the bottle in her flesh hand, the magnetised slide that ran out from the wrist of the other simultaneously spinning the cocktail shaker. As she slid the bottle across the barback to its home position, she upended the shaker into the iced glass, pouring with a flourish before sliding it down the bar, to stop exactly in front of the customer who had ordered the drink.
The next few drinks were mundane, and the magnetic slide returned to its home position just inside her left wrist, ready for its next use – be that the next cocktail, ensuring her safety knife couldn’t be taken from her as she walked home, or, really, anything else that she might need not to drop. Like cooking tools. That was the main reason she’d looked at the implant to begin with – hard to cook when you’re so clumsy everything winds up on the floor.
The monofibre that ran through it could be adjusted to ensure a variety of items stuck, as required. She didn’t really get how it worked, but the settings were adjustable from the eyeware that took instruction from her brain synapses, somehow. It worked, was the main point, and she had gone from scrabbling for jobs to pay rent on a oneroom where everything – kitchen, bed, toilet and stand-up shower – were in one tiny space without any doors, and which was about 8 paces wall to wall, to this job which, between pay and tips for the fancy moves, paid for a proper threeroom, meaning a bedroom, bathroom, and living room/kitchenette, all separated with doors. It was no palace, but it was hers as long as the rent was paid on time.
Jenkin snapped her mind back to her job, as another cocktail order was called, this time from a slender, masc-looking person, wearing sunglasses and a fitted monosuit beneath a plain dark t-shirt. Jenkin wondered, as she gave them the show, just how much of them was flesh, and how much tech. The expensive stuff was getting harder and harder to tell, though she guessed their eyes were of the more advanced type that still made a person look dead. Sunglasses worn inside were generally a giveaway for that.
As her shift drew towards the end and the place began to empty after last call, letting her start to clean up, she realised Sunglasses was still here. They looked up as she approached, and removed the glasses.
She inwardly noted that she’d been correct. Their eyes were a solid, pulsing, golden colour, and she suppressed a nervous shiver as they turned her way.
Their voice was a soft alto, accentless – like most who had escaped a poor beginning and reached a better, or at least richer, life.
“Hey. I know you? I’m sorry, I get a lotta folk through here.”
Their golden eyes were cold and lifeless as they stared at her, “You have no idea who I am, do you?”
“Sorry, like I said, I get a lotta-“
They began to sing. Quiet enough that nobody else would hear, but loud enough for her. The song flooded her with memories. Days spent exploring the undercity, chatting to the folk who lived down in the disused tunnels. Being grounded for it, waiting out the time, then doing it again. An unshakeable bond, a promise to get out, and to never leave the other behind. The sense of loss, of betrayal, when they left to work their own way up the ladder.
“The fuck do you want?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t think it would take this long. I know I left, and I know I ghosted you, but I did that so I could get into a position where I could bring you with me. I knew if they caught me with you they’d judge me, and I’d lose any chance I had at getting you out.”
“You’re pretty smart, Deniel. Pretty sure you coulda gotten me one single message. Ever. To explain that. Instead you disappear for a decade, get yourself all wired and teched up, then show up just as I’m doing ok, to, what? Make yourself feel better? “
“To offer you a job. I’m starting my own firm, and I want you with me. It’s gonna be hard, and they’re gonna be pissed,and i’m gonna have to pay a shitton in severance to keep some of these implants, but it’s the only way I can be sure the entire thing isn’t prejudiced from the top down, and you’re the only person I want at my side.” They shook their head, “I can’t apologise in any way that’s acceptable, but please understand, I did do this for us, for our promise.”
Jenkin stared at them. It was quite an offer. And she knew how these firms worked – pick a talented person from the poorer districts, make them cut contact as part of their working contract, and fill them with tech they’ll never be able to afford to buy out.
But some managed it. Some with the drive to stay rooted, and not get caught up with the luxury and temptations that surrounded them.
They would catch hell for the rest of their days for not getting a message to her – at least to explain and give her hope. But maybe they were on the level. Maybe they at least deserved a hearing, if only to fulfill her side of their promise.
“Alright. Here’s my place,” she skimmed across her address, “Lemme finish up here and I’ll hear you out.”
They smiled, showing the smallest hint of the person Jenkin remembered, underneath the implants, and swallowed their drink. They gave her a staggering tip, and left the bar for, presumably, her place.
Jenkin took her time finishing up, seeing no reason not to make them wait a little, then headed home, ready to hear them out.
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