Coffee Break Read – A Very Different Kind of Life

My apartment was, annoyingly, on the third floor. Annoyingly, because I needed to use the service elevator and the thing was designed to move slower than mucus. It added almost a quarter again to the time of my commute. I’d been looking for a ground floor place in a good part of the city since the day I moved in, but, on my pay, it wasn’t likely to happen anytime soon. Sitting there waiting to reach my floor was the time I always felt the most frustration and the time I always seemed to get the same thought: I could’ve retired and lived a very different kind of life.

Maybe I should have.

It was touch and go if I’d even live at the time. You don’t walk away from that kind of damage whistling. I’ve worked out the pension they’d have given me would’ve been five times or more than the amount I get now. That is calculated under the ‘local adjustment’ rules, designed to avoid having us CSF personnel out in the sticks living it up like a powerbroker from Central. Of course expenses are available when needed, but those you’ve got to justify to a fussy AI with zero ability to be flexible outside the permitted parameters.

But no, I chose this.

I didn’t want to give up doing the job I loved just because some of the bastards I was trying to stop had made mincemeat out of me from the pelvis down and left most of the rest shattered and broken. When they assigned me to this placement, it was in the expectation I’d be doing a lot of data collection and providing hosting support for those who were sent in to clean up any real problems—people like Grim Dugsdall. And yes, I did a fair amount of that, but I also pulled my weight and more with the workload. They hadn’t expected that.

Home was my personal sanctuary and the one place in the entire galaxy I could feel at ease. Here, everything worked for me and around what I needed. It had taken some setting up, but it meant from the moment I got in through the door I could feel relaxed. Normally I’d have an ambiance selected on the way home so the stiff grey furnishings would be overlain with the appearance of opulence or grandeur, depending on my mood or more usually set to cosy, But today I didn’t bother, just cancelled the quiet music which I had preset to greet me and made sure the internal monitoring system for the apartment was shut off.

My hiding place for the few unauthorised items I kept handy wouldn’t fool anyone in the CSF for long, but then that was never my intention. If ever my own people came searching my home, I’d have lost the plot and be in freefall. I licked my fingers and pressed. The wall panel behind my bed slid open as its biometric sensors read my DNA.

From ‘The Invisible Event’ a Fortune’s Fools story by E.M. Swift-Hook, in the Challenge Accepted anthology.

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