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Next of Kin, Chapter Twenty: 56%


  10:22:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 1264 words  
Categories: Next of Kin

Next of Kin, Chapter Twenty: 56%

Twenty, 56%

That could have both gone better, and worse. On the one hand, nobody shot me. On the other, it was apparently possible I was going to end up needing to shoot myself, and I was carrying a quasi-legal gun for the eventuality. I got the gun tucked away in my jacket before the bathroom override ended- and I wasn't being euphemistic.
I knew I was going to have to visit Tara again, and go harder at her. She was the mother of my brother's son. I didn't want to suspect her, but I didn't have much choice. I tried to put out of my head that the last bits of my brother were mixed with parts of her- that she was shepherding his legacy.
I parked outside her apartment, then walked up to her door. My interface called her inside. ?We need to talk,? I said. The lock clicked open. She was hand-washing a pot in the sink, and I walked into the kitchen to stand next to her. She smelled flowery, like a cheap perfume, or maybe midgrade shampoo.
?You should find a place to stop,? I said.
?Okay,? she said. She finished rinsing the pot, and set it to the side to dry. ?Want to have a seat?? she asked, and led me into the front room. We both sat on opposite ends of the couch.
?Why'd you shoot my brother?? I asked.
?What the,? she glanced self-consciously back towards her child, making sure he was out of earshot, ?fuck are you talking about??
?As a suspect in his murder, I'm informing you that I need root access to your interface. I'll need you to reboot, and when it asks for permission to share access, for you to accept.?
?And if I don't- if I think that's a gross invasion??
?It only makes you look guiltier.?
?Guiltier?? she asked. ?So I already look guilty?? Her face contorted in a combination of rage and pain. I hated myself already, and that only made my own guilt worse.
?I need you to reboot your interface,? I said again.
?Fuck you,? she said, but from the way she looked down and to the side I could tell she was accessing her menus. A second later my request went through, and she authorized it.
?You want to tell me why you needed that??
?Because you were with John. And before that, you were a sex worker. You have mods, I'll say quasi-legal ones, that are interfering with my investigation. Root access means I can see your processes- and terminate them. So if I think a process is blocking one of my tools, I can shut it down.?
?You could have asked,? she said, her voice trembling. She was upset. I tried to tell myself to use that- push her harder, still.
?Would you have complied??
?I might,? she said.
?You're lying. You would have had the same exact reaction, only you would have dug in your heels instead of just getting hurt.?
?You manipulated me?? she asked.
?No,? I replied. ?Because I wasn't trying to elicit that response.?
?So you were being a dick, just not on purpose.?
?No,? I said, and pulled up her biometrics, as well as her brainscan. ?And you don't get to play the sweet, innocent aggrieved girl, because you've been lying to me. So tell me the truth. When did you see John last??
She thought about lying again. But I think this time she knew I was monitoring, and would know. ?The night he died,? she said.
?About eleven o'clock.?
?How?? I asked.
?You already know about the mod that screws with GPS. Well, there's a sister mod, one that only sex workers know about. We guard it close, because so long as it's just being used for sex work, the cops don't have a reason to engineer around it. So about the only way you can get access to it is from another sex worker. When it's active, it cuts you out of any images or video, replaces the pixels where you're standing with 'empty' pixels from moments before your arrived. Makes it like a sex worker was never there. So you wouldn't have seen me come or go on the cameras.?
?And how did you get to his place??
?I took a cab.?
?How'd you pay??
She shut her eyes. ?Autodeduction from my account.? She felt self-conscious for it. Even I knew that there were cash alternatives that the cabs would take that still allowed for some degree of anonymity. But on the other hand, it was good. Because somebody planning a murder doesn't pay for a cab with their account.
?Why'd you go to see him??
?I still don't know,? she said. ?Except that he was upset. In this kind of haze, of fury, and confusion. I'd never seen him like that. But he was this weird combination of upset and calm. Like he kept talking about the future, while holding Max. I think maybe that's why he asked me over. I thought maybe he wanted to get back together, or at least screw. But he wanted to see Max. It usually calmed him down. And I know this sounds weird to somebody without kids, but, having a son, it changes the way you look at tomorrow. It's brighter, more hopeful; maybe some of that is just because you want a better world for your kids, so you try to will it into existence.?
?Did that hurt you?? I asked.
?Of course. I've always known John was bad for me. He's the human equivalent of smoking. But smoking makes you feel safe, like whatever else is happening in the great wide world beyond your control, that this little piece of now, that's tied into your ultimate destiny, is right at your fingertips. You can touch it, you can taste it, and even if it's killing you, you love it for how it makes you feel in that moment. And I always wanted him- no, I needed him to feel about me the same way, even though I knew he didn't, and that he probably never could.?
?Did it make you mad?? I asked.
?You're asking stupid, redundant questions now,? she said.
?Just answer it.?
?Yes.? Her vitals were straight.
?And what did you do with that anger??
?I stowed it away, and told myself I'd use it the next time he stopped by for a quickie, to say, 'No.'? She swallowed. ?I probably wouldn't have, because telling him no would have been telling me no, and the difference is he would have just fucked someone else, where I would have been lonely and pent-up until the next time. Not that I ever got to chance to passive-aggressively channel that anger.? No deception.
?You didn't use it to hurt him??
?No,? she said, and it was almost a laugh. ?He was Max's father, and I still, I still, today have trouble with the idea that he isn't going to be there to help me raise him. I keep catching myself thinking that it's been a while since he stopped in, and Max would love to see him, and maybe I should think about shaving my legs for him. And he's not ever going to stop in again. He's gone. Jesus. How am I going to raise Max alone??
?I'm sorry,? I said, and scooted closer in to her.
?Of course you are,? she said bitterly. But pissed as she was at me, and righteously so, she needed someone. So she latched onto my shoulder, and cried.

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