The Karma Thief

Tenzin Jones let the smoke out of his lungs slowly. Wearily.

That last case had left him exhausted and there was still a towering stack of pending investigations he hadn’t even come close to wrapping up. He needed a partner, he admitted to himself grudgingly. Someone who could do some of the drudge work would be worth his weight in gold. Except, he thought as he drew on the nearly burnt out cigarette, he liked working alone. Not that there was any lack of applicants for the job, whether he advertised for it or not. Ever since he took out that werewolf in the Jamaican quarter, he’d had gotten more publicity than he ever wanted. Sure, it brought in lots of work, but it also drew in every aspiring young private investigator from Little Rwanda to the Pan-asian Combine.

But the cases he worked weren’t fit for rookies. Somewhere in that pile of unresolved cases was one involving a serial killer who left no trace on the victims’ bodies. At least until the autopsy revealed that their hearts were missing. The Valentine Killer, they called the monster. Because he stole your heart.

“Fucked up world,” he said, the words drawn from his lips by the force of the memories he had about the case. He knew right away what those killings meant, the moment he read the file. But it was such a ludicrous notion that he’d put the case aside until he could figure out a more rational explanation than a tulpa. Maybe an organ trafficker, he thought, with amazing skills.

He sighed. That explanation seemed even more stupid than the idea of an imaginary ghost beast. Anyway, the next victim would confirm his suspicions one way or the other. In the meantime, he needed to relax.

Pushing himself up from his chair, Jones threw a glance at the far wall of his office and quickly found the place he wanted to go. Mimi’s. The map on the wall lit up with a pale blue glow and Jones looked at the playbill that popped up in front of his left eye, hovering between his retina and the real world.

He blinked once and the list started to scroll upward. Good. Solenn is in town. He blinked once to make an appointment with his favorite courtesan, and twice to advance half her fee. In the background, he could hear the console on his desk beeping confirmation of the fund transfer. He checked that his pistol was fully charged before sliding it into the holster under his left arm, and was out the door before his desktop phone rang.

Out in the hallway, he heard the phone ringing but decided to let his machine get it. He had no intention of holding some client’s hand and reassuring her that her husband did indeed start to cheat on her only after her baby was born and not during her pregnancy. “Fucked up world,” he muttered under his breath and strode purposefully to the elevators.

“Tenzin Jones. Leave a message.”


“Goddamnit Tenzin! When are you going to get a repeater? Anyway, I just got your booking. Don’t come tonight. They’re wai–”



New Jarkata. The greatest city on earth.

Jones breathed in deep, aware that doing so could mean that he was inhaling millions of fembots. The Indonesians weren’t very strict about that, which accounted for the meteoric rise of New Jakarta. London and Paris were the first to outlaw fembots – infinitesimal radiotransmitters, smaller than atoms. New York followed suit about a year later. Six months later, New Jakarta announced that it had no plans to restrict the use and deployment of fembots in the atmosphere. In less than a year, almost half of the world’s biggest tech businesses started setting up shop in New Jakarta.  Now, merely a decade on, New Jakarta was the richest city in the world, and fembots transmitted everything from food commercials to scholarly treatises via the carrier waves of the augmented reality contact lenses that nearly everyone wore.

“Taksi, mister?”

Jones turned to the boy. “Sure.”

The boy turned and ran off to the curb and started waving wildly at the oncoming traffic. When a car pulled up, he turned to Jones and gestured just as frantically. Jones trotted over, knowing that if he took to long, the cab would disappear back into the rush of vehicles. As he ran, he fished around in his pocket for spare change and handed it to the boy, worried for a second that he might have given too little. But the door slammed shut behind him and before he’d even had a chance to tell the driver where to go, they were already easing back into the traffic.

“Where we going, mister?”



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