"Do sey fit?"
Jackson scrunched his eyes up and rolled them around in their sockets. He could feel the pressure of the lenses against his eyeballs. Painful, but manageable. Satisfied, he nodded. "Good for now. How long are they powered for?"
The person in front of him, a middle-aged Dutch woman with greying hair, tapped a message into her organizer before replying. "As long as you liff," she said, "sey will transmit images to us. And for a liddle while after you die. Which"—she smiled—"we hope you do not."
"And my contract?"
She nodded. "De same as we agreed. If you come back from sis assignment, de worlt will see you as a hero."
"Since we agreed it, though, you've changed the terms." Jackson leant against the side of a mahogany table, watching her eyes drift in a half-wince to the expensive vase inches away from his elbow.
"Only a small amount. Some extra time. No more. You are alreaty receiving a generous bonus for sis. What extra coult you want?"
Without pause, he replied, "Final salary pension."
The woman barked out a short laugh before noticing his straight face and adopting a more calm expression. "Oh. You are being serious." She leant back in her chair and regarded him for a few seconds. "Sere is no time to negotiate anymore. De situation has reached crisis point. But we will consiter it."
Jackson nodded. He hadn't expected to get it, but it was worth asking. He wouldn't have said no to the job in any case—he had to admit he was curious.
"One more sing," she said, throwing him a pack of cigarettes: Ecrivain's Specials, or so the label said. "Light one of dese up and we will attempt to sent a team in for extraction."
Jackson got up and made his way to the door, resisting the urge to rub his eyes.
* * *
The stench of the city was the only thing he noticed in the hour it took him to walk from the drop site. It felt like no time at all since the "clique" city had seceded from continental governance, even if its foundation felt like ancient history. With the state of the world at the time, the government had been grateful for anyone forming a semblance of order out of chaos. Now, though, it recognized its mistakes. That's why they'd called up Jackson.
He was coming up to the walls now. They looked hastily constructed, with flimsy metal meshes layered on top of each other and joined together with what looked like industrial cable ties. As much as it looked weak, the lurking gun emplacements far above him served as the city's dissuasion.
The "gates," more like standard double doors, grew closer. Jackson slipped his new phone out of his pocket and opened the Wattpad app. It took a while to load up, but who knew what the thing had been through since the observers picked it up?
Glancing from left to right, he wondered if the observers were watching him now, or if they'd packed up since he was streaming a live feed back to base.
"You comin' in or what?" a voice called from behind the doors.
Jackson looked back ahead of him, where a peephole had appeared in the material of the door. He couldn't say what material—it was caked in dirt. "Yes," he said. "Yes, I'm coming in."
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Epic Tales from Beautiful Minds: An Ooorah AnthologyScience Fiction
Inspired by @rskovach's DECAMERON 2.0, EPIC TALES FROM BEAUTIFUL MINDS is a sci-fi anthology. Spread across multiple sub-genres, EPIC TALES features short stories from Wattpad's best sci-fi writers. The majority of these different sub-genres feature...