𝙻𝙾𝚂 𝙰𝙽𝙶𝙴𝙻𝙴𝚂 𝙿𝙾𝙻𝙸𝙲𝙴 𝙳𝙴𝙿𝙰𝚁𝚃𝙼𝙴𝙽𝚃, 𝙿𝚁𝙴𝙲𝙸𝙽𝙲𝚃 #𝟺
As anyone who’s lived in LA would know, there’s a certain smell that pervades the city, a scent that’s unmistakable, yet nearly impossible to describe. It’s a miasmic cloud that hangs heavy in the air—damp, musty, a hint of ozone—sticking to one’s skin like a tattoo. Inhaling, Javier wrinkles his nose, and takes another drag of the cigarette pinched between his fingers: Kyriazi Freres
. Genuine, tobacco-based cigarettes were a luxury these days, but Javier thought he deserved a treat after his latest case.
The memories come back to him in pieces, rendered nebulous by the lingering aftershocks of a concussion. Blood, sinew, the kick of a standard-issue blaster against his shoulder. That wasn’t the first time he’d nearly lost his life in the line of duty. Replicant bodies were built for strength, durability, far superior to a human in every way, but even with their implanted memories, they lacked the capacity to be anything more than what they were made for. That’s what Javier believed, anyway. He didn’t have much time to muse upon the true purpose of a Replicant before he had to put a bullet through his target’s skull.
Even after he’d been mortally wounded, the Replicant continued to twitch and shudder with life, almost as if he was too stubborn to die. Another shot in the temple put a stop to it. After that, it was just a matter of extraction. His fingers had slid easily into the gap between the eyeball and its socket, pulling it out just enough for him to sever the optic nerve with a jack-knife.
It never got any easier.
Javier was not a squeamish man—to be so in this occupation would be a death sentence—but skinner or not, there was something so revolting, so visceral
about plucking an eyeball right out of the skull of a corpse. He remembers staring down at it, meeting its dull, lifeless gaze with one of his own.
A coughing fit breaks him out of his recollection, jarring in a way that makes him sneer and flick the ashy remains of his cigarette down onto the streets below. If it happened to land on someone, well, he’d be long gone by the time they knew what hit them. Right now, there was somewhere else he needed to be. He’s still on the clock, after all.
The walk to the precinct is a well-trod one. Javier had grown up on these streets, taking work wherever he could find it. All around him, swarms of people were doing the same. Food vendors, charlatans peddling knock-off Wallace tech, prostitutes
; every last person had fought for their place here, carving out their very own niche in the labyrinth that was Los Angeles. It was the only way to survive in the post-Blackout world. You did what you could to make yourself useful, or else.
Pointedly ignoring the gargantuan, winking holo-vert of the newest generation of Joi™
, he makes a sharp right to turn into an alleyway. There, a young woman with a head of bleached-blonde hair is knocked out cold, propped crookedly against the wall. One of her boots is missing, Javier blandly notes, though it’s far too common a sight for him to pay much mind. Pulling his coat closer around himself, he steps over the slumbering woman, and continues walking at a brisk pace towards his destination.
It doesn’t take him much longer to reach the street leading up to the precinct, and Mikhail’s Corner Store presents a familiar sight. In all his years working for the LAPD, Javier had passed by the store more times than he could count, but this time, something was amiss. He lets his steps slow to an amble, pretending to browse the row vending machines adjacent to the store. Javier doesn’t turn fully to face the bum outside, rather, he glances at him through his peripheral vision, sizing him up without making it apparent.
There’s something about the man Javier can’t quite put his finger on, something dangerous, though he’s reluctant to investigate any further. The most important lesson he has learnt over the years is that one should never volunteer to do more than necessary, and this seemed to him like more than necessary
. Javier was already busy nursing a headache from his last mission; the last thing he wanted was to have another skinner bash his skull in before he had a chance to recover.
Besides, he wasn’t the only Runner in LA. Surely one of the other officers could get him on their own time.
Thus, with his decision made, he retrieves a five dollar bill from his wallet, slides it into the machine, then scoops up the pack of seaweed chips that pops out the bottom. Not exactly what you’d call haute cuisine
, but he hadn’t been planning on eating it anyway.
Javier climbs up the few steps it takes to get to the central lift lobby, stepping deftly around an officer who was far too busy fiddling with his wristwatch to see where he was going. The precinct seemed a lot quieter than usual. Save for the janitor hosing down a half-dried splatter of blood near the far wall, there weren’t many people around at all. Javier soon finds himself in an elevator all on his own, and he only has to hold his identification card up to a scanner before the doors slide shut, the elevator beginning its rapid descent to the designated floor.
In quieter moments, one could almost forget the blackout even happened, but it was indisputable fact that now, more than two decades later, they were still dealing with the consequences. Javier thinks back to the time before it happened. He’d still been a boy, then—scrappy and desperate for a better life. Of course, no one could have guessed that he would eventually end up working for the LAPD. The younger Javier swore up and down that he’d make a name for himself, build an empire rivalling the Yamabishi-kai of Little Tokyo. Things change, he supposed. The flippant arrogance of a child had its limits, and he knew now that it wasn’t always so easy to get what you wanted.
The elevator doesn’t make any noise when it stops, no ‘ding!’ of affirmation, but Javier had been watching the numbers on the LED display. Once the doors open, he steps out into the adjoining corridor, making a beeline towards the boardroom he’d been told to head to. Was he late? Javier didn’t think so, though he hoped that whatever this was, they’d be able to finish up quickly.
Once, twice, he raps his knuckles on the door, though he doesn’t wait for an invitation before pushing it open and stepping inside. Javier isn’t surprised to see Delfrezy there. After all, he’d been the one to call this meeting in the first place. They’ve crossed paths once or twice, and he has heard his fair share of stories regarding the other man’s exploits, but he wouldn’t go so far as to say they were friends; acquaintances
, more like. They have something of a working relationship, and truth be told, Javier had little interest in getting to know him better. Still, he knew when to play nice. It was always better to make friends instead of enemies, right?“Hope you’re hungry. I brought a snack.”
He slides the pack of seaweed chips across the table towards Anthony before reaching out for a handshake, teeth bared in a winsome smile. “I’m Javier. Javier Czerny. I’ve heard a lot about you, detective. You’re quite the star around here.”