I’m hungry and determined as shit, so I lock down my lungs and chew.
“Hell, Priest,” she says. “Are you okay?”
I hold up a finger, face turning red from the effort. Then I swallow, turn my head to the side, and unleash a coughing fit. When I’m done, I wipe my mouth, take a swig of water, and smile at her. “That was funny.”
“You ready to hear this now?” she asks. “Could have been halfway there by now.”
“Moon,” she says.
I choke again. This time on nothing. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me.”
It’s been a year since the events that took my arm. Some asshole in space decided to fire some kind of energy weapon at the surface. Earth is surrounded by a half-mile-thick layer of space junk. Some of it is satellites. New ones and old school shit. The International Space Station is still there. But there are also zero-G vacation homes, military installations, and space hotels. Then there are the spaceboards—massive billboards projecting the latest products to people on the ground who still bother to look up. The weapon that took my arm fired from that mess. No way to track it. Impossible to find. Not just because space is far away, and messy, but because it’s not hard to move things in zero gravity. Whoever took the shot, is long gone, which leaves us to chase down suspects the old-fashioned way—waiting for someone to screw up.
And it’s been a long, slow wait. I’d just about resigned myself to believing it was a weapon test, and I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. My arm was, at least. Had I been one step to the right, I’d have been erased along with my perp and a mile-deep chunk of the ground.
Technically, Rehna and I are narcs. We track down, beat the shit out of, and arrest Dretch peddlers. But we occasionally follow our own path, and The Authority doesn’t mind all that much, because we get results.
If I weren’t such a gruff asshole, we’d probably be uptown working high profile murders. But I’ve managed to offend and/or punch just about everyone with the power to keep my career downtown—where the nicest thing you can buy for a quick lunch is a hot dog. Lips and assholes. Tasty, though.
“What’s the lead?” I ask. The moon isn’t an easy place to get to. The Mooners staged a rebellion. They’re autonomous from the Earth and generally viewed as terrorists. When a case leads to the moon, that’s usually where it ends. Hell, most Dretch probably comes from the moon. But this isn’t just any case. They took my arm. Ruined my leathers. And revealed a weapon powerful enough to wipe out every man, woman, and simp living on the planet.
“A loudmouth Dretch peddler bragging that he ran parts to the moon.”
“That’s not uncommon.”
“One of the parts was, and I quote, ‘a hundred big-ass lenses.’”
I nod. “The kind of thing that might focus an energy weapon.”
“A big-ass one,” she says. “Yeah.”
“Where’s he at?” I ask.
“How far uptown?”
“All the way up. Senator Maddern’s son.”
“Maddern? Seriously? Every time something’s about to get tasty, the man takes a shit in my mouth.”
“Which means,” she says, looking me in the eyes, “we need to do this subtly.”
“That’s like asking trash to not stink.”
She raises her eyebrows at me in a way that makes me feel assaulted. “If you can’t handle it, I can go solo.”
“Much as I’m sure you like to go solo, I’m coming.”
She forces a smile. “Charming.”
“Hey, I—” Something feels funny. It’s either gas or instinct. I scan the hot dog joint. There are simps, Dretchers, and a few midtowners slumming it for a hot dog. But no danger. Nothing obvious, anyway. The people we’re looking for can atomize portions of the planet from orbit.
“Something wrong?” Rehna asks.
“Might need to pass gas,” I say. “Or we’re about to get erased.”
My eyes flick toward the menu above the registers. Holographic hot dogs spin around, enticing. They’re framed by styles of dog and prices. I know the menu well. Eat here more than I should. The prices go up occasionally, but the food options haven’t changed in years.
Right now, the words are a mess of shifting letters. It’s nonsense, like the display has been hacked. Problem is, the menu options are ancient. They’re not part of the holographic display. They’re hand-painted, and they shouldn’t be able to change without a can of liquid toner and a brush.
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