OPTICA #13

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Jonquil didn’t expect the telly to know much. The bombing had happened only about fifteen hours ago and in the TORCH side of the city. Only tellies who were closely involved would know much about it. “What do you think?” she asked, bowing to Aliza’s expertise.

“I think we ought to find an elder and ask their opinion on all this. We’ve worked with them a lot before… and I wanna know more about this ‘reckoning’. I think I know a guy.” Aliza offered a hand and helped the telly off the ground, then gave him something from her pocket and beamed him an image. The telly helped up its friend, still dazed and winded from the propulsor shot, and staggered away.

“What did you give him?” she asked Aliza.

“Huh? Oh. Some shrimp- fuckers love shrimp.”

“You keep shrimp in your pockets?”

Aliza’s cheeks turned pink. “Don’t shame me.”

They returned to the scaffoldings. Jonquil had gotten damp during all of the excitement, and the hems of her rolled-up pants had still managed to get soaked. Aliza led them deeper into Labor-Caste District. The buildings became larger and more impressive, and the streets busier with activity. “So how’s life?” Aliza asked casually, peering over her shoulder. “You, uh… seen any good movies lately?”

“I don’t watch movies,” said Jonquil. “Let’s focus on the investigation.”

“Gosh Jonquil, throw me a bone won’t you? You’re the straight woman, I get it.” Aliza stuck out her tongue. “A little too straight.”

“Fine line between flirting and harassment, Aliza.”

“Any line I walk on is a fine line.”

Jonquil grunted. Their conversations always went like this. “What about Cordovan? You weren’t shy about grabbing his bits, or him yours.”

“They’re good bits! Fun to squeeze and grab. He’s the one I was drinking with last night, and y’know, one thing led to another.” Aliza shrugged. “I can give you the gory details if you like.”

“That is… quite all right.” Jonquil could imagine it vividly enough. “So it was…”

“Oh, it was excellent. A bit surprised I’m walking straight afterwards.” Aliza grinned, showing all her teeth. “We have another date this weekend. If you like, I could call in a last minute substitution. ‘I’m under the weather, but my hot friend is free.’”

Jonquil groaned, looking up at the grey sky and wishing for a lightning storm to smite her. “I was that obvious?”

“It’s not even eye-fucking, what you do. You’re eye-romancing him. Eye-making him breakfast and reminding him to turn on the dishwasher before work. Cordovan’s not that kind of guy, Jonny… he’s not going to be tied down, probably not ever. Maybe that’s why he and I get along.”

“So I’m doomed because I want something more substantial than a drunken romp?” Jonquil asked crisply.

“You’re doomed because you’re not buying what the man is selling. He’s selling artisanal dick, hot and fresh. The price is low and the quality is top-notch but that’s all he sells.”

Someday she’d get used to Aliza’s crassness. Today was not that day. “He doesn’t even look at me,” she murmured.

“Well you’re not exactly his type. You’re, uh, more of a niche flavor than a crowd-pleaser. But get a few drinks in him and I promise you he won’t give a shit about anything except what’s between your thighs.”

Jonquil shook her head fervently. “Not my thing. You can keep him.”

“I really can’t- and he can’t keep me. I just intend to enjoy it while it lasts.” With a roll of her shoulders, Aliza chuckled. “Finally did it.”

“Hmm?”

“Finally got you to think about something besides that fucking bombing.” She shuddered. “What a grisly scene. Being a cop isn’t so fun on days like this.”

“Fun…?” Jonquil blinked in confusion. “I don’t understand. What is fun about our job?”

Aliza put her hands up in a conciliatory gesture. “It’s just a joke, Jonny. Just that, y’know, we usually find time for a bit of levity at least. You’re stiff on a good day but I don’t think I’ve seen you so serious before. Cheer up.”

Before she knew it, Jonquil had rounded on her partner and was right up in her face. Aliza stepped back in surprise. “Tell that to the dead,” Jonquil growled, just as surprised at how angry she was. “Tell that to all their friends who will never see them again. Tell that to the rest of TORCH: that we were tasked with finding out who butchered those women but we didn’t because we weren’t taking it seriously enough. Don’t you understand the responsibility that’s been given to us, Aliza? I didn’t ask for a life like this for fun. I asked for it because justice for the dead, justice to the living, is the only thing that separates us from animals. How many lives is your ephemeral enjoyment worth?”

“It’s not like that,” Aliza said meekly. “All I was trying to say is-“

“I know you don’t take this work seriously. I know it hardly matters to you. That’s fine. I’ve long since made my peace with our differences. But now, when seventy-plus are dead and their bodies have yet to grow cold, I only ask that you not get in the way. If you aren’t going to take this seriously, then go home.” Jonquil met Aliza’s eyes and bored into them. “Don’t half-ass it, Aliza. That’s disrespectful. Full-ass it or don’t ass it at all.”

Aliza’s smile had melted away. After a moment of thought, she nodded slowly. “Okay. You’re right. I’ll try harder… but I don’t think the odd joke hurts our effectiveness. Get too tense and you become rigid, inflexible. Gotta stay light on our feet, eh?”

Jonquil just turned away, her point made. They walked in silence for several minutes more until Aliza spoke up.“That’s our spot,” she said, far more subdued than before.

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