After I’d finished speaking to Albert, I set off on my way to District 10. I was escorted as far as District 5, where I was sent to speak with the chief of police. The chief of police for District 5, a middle aged man with his heart set on early retirement, oversaw most of the police departments of the lower down districts, and as such I was to report to him while on the case. He seemed like he was tired of his job, and spent most of his time smoking and drinking coffee. He had to stop four times throughout my debriefing to light another cigarette, and send his receptionist to get him another coffee. His receptionist, a young lad no older than nineteen with a crooked nose and almost luminescent veneers, informed me the chief had a penchant for French pastries, and that anyone who wanted to get on his good side only had to bring him a croissant from the patisserie in District 4. I made a note to remember it should I need it in future.
“What did Albert tell you about this case?” he asked, taking a long, slow drag of his cigarette.
“Not much, if I’m honest. Just that the suits in District 1 want to clean up District 10” I said with a shrug.
The chief laughed. “Clean up District 10? The only thing that could clean that place up is a nuke”
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat.
“Either way, the shirts in District 1 seem to think all it’ll take is a couple of you special snowflakes. No offense”
“None taken” I said, nodding at him courteously.
I’d heard the special snowflake insult more times than I cared to remember. It’s origins had long been forgotten, but the reasoning behind it was that, in general, special agents like myself seemed to think themselves above others. I’d never believed as such. After all, I was an officer of the law, same as any other.
The chief fished something out of a drawer in his desk, tossing it across the desk to me. I caught it in one swift movement, looking at it. It was a small, laminated, rectangular piece of card. On it sat a picture of me, most likely the one used in my personnel file, and fake information. From now on I was to be Leon Haight, an up and coming journalist for the Daily Mail. It was a decent enough alibi, but I could already pick faults in it. Why would a journalist carry and know how to use a gun? Why would an up and coming journalist be sent into District 10 instead of a veteran reporter?
“That should get you as far as District 9” the chief said, straightening himself up in his chair. “After that, just cause enough trouble to get yourself evicted to the sewers”
I studied my new ID for a few minutes. “I have a better plan”
“Then I’m all ears, snowflake”
“Do you know if my partner’s been contacted yet?” I questioned, waiting for the chief to check on his computer.
He shook his head. “She’s not been taken into custody yet”
“Any previous offenses?”
“None that have been recorded”
“She won’t know how transfers work, then” I said thoughtfully. “Instead of me using my pass to get to District 9, why don’t we skip the middle man? Organise a fake transfer once she’s been brought in”
“And what’s your position in this, courier?”
“Produce” I said with a smile, getting to my feet. “There’s a croissant from District 4 in it for you if this goes smoothly”
“I’ll do what I can, Ayt- Haight. Now get lost”
I made my way out of his office, saying a polite farewell to his receptionist before heading out to do some quick research. All I’d heard about District 10 were the scare stories screened on the news; stories of poison gas seeping up from the sewers, drug wars waging destruction across the district, images of poverty stricken children. As it turned out, most of it was true. The poison gas seemed to be a scientific mystery. District 10 was hardly known for its scientific brilliance, and no one from the outside was willing to put themselves at risk to investigate it. Chances were it came from the chemicals used in drug manufacturing, but that was just a theory.
Eventually, the time for our plan arrived, and I was escorted into District 10. The windows of the van I rode in had been blacked out, to stop vision from both sides of the glass. It put me on edge. I could understand why someone seeing into the van and recognising me might be a bad thing, but I was being thrown in at the deep end by not gaining a basic understanding of the landscape. I was given a mask to wear and ushered out of the van and into the police station. The cops escorting me were from District 9, and were otherwise unaware of what was going on. As far as they were concerned, I was just another pampered princess from a higher district that’d gotten too cocky in their security.
The chief of District 5 had arranged that they didn’t need to be quite so careful with me, and it took a lot of restraint not to fight back as one of them landed a harsh blow across my cheek. I reminded myself it was for a better cause and stuck it out, being thrown in a cell before too long while I waited for the transfer order to come through from District 5. All I could do was hope this partner of mine would turn up soon.