It was disturbingly perfect and Pixy didn’t much care for it. Every time she drove her beat up old van down the street and pulled into the adjunct parking garage she counted herself a traitor. She belonged down the way in some broken down studio apartment where she could take a shower and cook breakfast at the same time, not in a place with bulletproof windows stretching from the floor to the ceiling tinted for privacy and UV protection. It was all too grand for a guttersnipe who’d crawled out from the slums of East Tenny where she’d had to wear a gas mask to bed each and every night because it was too expensive to run a ventilation system at the boarding house. Bad air and bad people. That’s all Pixy had ever known and that’s all she reckoned she deserved. But not Prim. Prim deserved the best.
The van sputtered wetly as it came to a stop reminding her that it was running on borrowed time. Grabbing hold of her large duffle bag filled with stripper clips, boxes of ammo, an electronic dossier with a full terabyte of information on wanted men and women between the 90th and 80th parallels, and one of Prim’s old beat up nightshirts, Pixy stepped out of the large cumbersome vehicle. It had gang tags all over it, some of which she’d painted herself. It was grunge art on four wheels and she was acutely aware of how much it pissed off her well-to-do neighbors that her piece of crap reconstructed Transit took up space in their otherwise illustrious showroom of a garage, but the worse her ride looked, the better it was for bounty hunting. Shiny didn’t last long in the places she went, but no one bothered much over a vandalized hunk of rusted metal. That and she needed the room for transport; once in a great while her employer sent her on jobs that only paid out if the mark was brought in alive. She hated those jobs. It was so much easier when ‘dead or’ was part of the deal.
Pixy rounded the van and tugged the charger cable from its hiding spot beneath the grille. She plugged it in and waited long enough to make sure the connection was secure then she headed into the building proper.
The entire complex was ventilated; once inside the air was breathable, but in all the years she’d lived here with Prim, she’d never removed her mask before reaching her apartment. Today was no exception. The front deskman nodded at her, just as he always did, as she ran her key card under the scanner.
“Nice weather we’re having,” he said and smiled.
“The best,” she curtsied and moved past him toward the lift. The deskman, despite evidence that he was a living, breathing human, seemed very much like a robot. She’d never seen his lower half as he was always seated at his post no matter the day or hour, and for all she knew he was nothing more than an upper torso, arms, and head constructed for the sole purpose of greeting passing residents with one of four lines of dialogue, two of which were passé commentaries on the weather. One of these days she’d pinch him and see if he had a preset response for that, too.
The lift was a cylinder composed primarily of glass and it traveled along a vertical tube servicing all ten stories of condominiums. Pixy pressed the Roman numeral for five and then leaned against the smooth handrail that ran the circumference of the see through car. Across from her was a ghostly reflection, distorted by the curvature of the glass. Her hair, which, that morning, had started out in a bun, was now a fallen, knotted mess and there was dirt all around her eyes and on her forehead.
“I’m gonna look like a raccoon when I finally take this damn mask off,” she said and chuckled. Then she frowned. She turned her head a little and her reflection went wide until it distorted into nothing. Prim often told her that she was beautiful, but if there was a pretty girl under all that grime, under the expanse of gas mask, Pixy had never seen her.
The upward motion of the lift slowed to a stop. A soft ping sounded. The doors opened up to the fifth level and she stepped gingerly out into the corridor. Her door was the first one on the right.
If she hadn’t been wearing her stiletto boots, she might have skipped her way home, but she knew Prim wouldn’t approve of a rolled ankle, so she just walked as quickly as she could, eagerness speeding her step and making the last few moments of her journey seem to take forever.