A light mist was pouring in off the Caspian sea. I closed my click, sighing into the dark as I pulled on a yellow, wide-legged, vinyl jumpsuit. It was museum quality, a molecular recreation of something an obscure rock star had worn in the late 20th century. It’d cost me a week’s allowance. I ran a matching stick of lip-stain over my mouth, smirking into the mirror. The door to my room slid open. I grimaced at the soft buzzing noise it made as it shut behind me. My mother was asleep, and I doubted she cared enough to wake up. But my crypt of an apartment was stiflingly quiet, especially at one o’clock in the morning, and any small sound echoed.
I crept down the wrought-iron spiral staircase that led into the living room. The strokes of bright red paint on the tasteless modern art piece we’d recently installed glimmered dully. I passed my mother’s collection of houseplants, absently reaching out to touch something soft and green. I landed on a cactus. In the gray light, the blood beading on my finger looked as abstract as the painting. Wiping my hand on the plasticky fabric of my jumpsuit, I took the elevator down to the lobby.
The city was still very much alive. The platform built around my building was neon and pulsing. Groups of fashionably dressed humans laughed, drinking brightly colored iced tea in the rare summer rain, mixing English, Turkish, Russian, Farsi, and Si?lut into a complicated vernacular that would be incomprehensible to anyone who hadn’t gone to one of Baku’s exclusive preparatory academies. Advertisements for new clubs kept popping up on my click as I passed through the crowded streets, chased by the jangling psychedelic folk of a street musician. The walk to the nearest hover-rail station was only a few blocks and soon I was cruising over Baku’s lovingly preserved medieval quarter on my way to the boardwalk.
I took another elevator down to the shore, gazing out over the collection of three-hundred year old oil tankers still anchored in the bay. The ships had been turned into affordable housing after the Caspian oil reserves had run dry, but eventually they too had been gentrified, forcing their inhabitants to the colonies or slapdash developments erected out in the desert. The neighborhood still had a ghetto feel though. By design, the tankers contained a well-regulated black-market. They were where you went to buy illicit drugs and sometimes delicious alien delicacies, attend dance parties and orgies.
“Where the hell are you?” I messaged through my click as I climbed onto the dock. “I’m at dock three, but everyone has a haircut from this century.”
“Wait, doret begardam.”
“Vasya, aşkım, I expect a more devoted vulture!”
“What? Doret begardam...” Vasya repeated. “Let me circle around you, I’ll be there in a bit…”
“Siktir! And once you get here, you’ll just continue circling because you love me much-mwa” I used the inflected Si?lut amplifier, but applied Turkish rules of vowel harmony, so it would sound like kissing noises.
“Hui! I’m going to fail that test on Farsi idioms tomorrow.”
“You can cheat off mine. I’ll send you an encrypted link. I promise they won’t be able to track it.”
“Get on over here then! First, shave off that fucking mohawk, though.”
“If I did that, how would you find me?”
“You’re the one who is supposed to be circling me.” I got an alert on my click that Vasya was tracking me. Grinning, I sprinted onto the nearest tanker, then turned off my location.
A final message popped up: “Prick.”
I found my way down into the bowls of the ship, squeezing through claustrophobic corridors that smelled of sweat and perfume. Squished between the metal wall and the sequenced dress of a boy whose face I couldn’t see, I found a small locked door a few meters in front of me. I pushed ahead, pressing my hand to the door. The boy tripped, tearing a seam in his dress. Access denied flashed across my field of vision in big red letters as my click connected with the locking mechanism. I closed my eyes, letting the stream of code pour into my consciousness. The lock was better protected than I’d anticipated, but after a couple of minutes of fiddling, I found the trick. The door buzzed open and I slipped through. To my surprise I found a group of people in formal wear, sitting around a table, in the middle of what looked like a corporate meeting. “Fuck,” I muttered under my breath, backing out slowly, but it was too late. A woman in a black mock neck cashmere sweater stood up menacingly.
I waved, then ran towards the hallway on the other side of the room yelling, “I’m late! The boss is going to kill me!” It was the first line I could think of that would fit either into a mafia movie or an office drama. After a couple random turns, I ended up at the base of a tall ladder. With glee, I remembered that I had turned off my tracker. Had it not been for the game I was playing with Vasya, I would have forgotten that essential step of breaking an entry all together.
I turned on the tracker again, starting up the ladder. “You’ve disappeared off the map,” Vasya messaged. I continued climbing until I reached an old fashioned latch. “I should reappear right about now… Shit! It’s rusted shut!”
“What’s rusted shut?”
“You have got to be a bit more specific, Tamerlane.”
“The Godmother is going to catch me! I could really use a magic pumpkin carriage right now!”
“You’re mixing your metaphors. It must be really bad.”
“What do you mean? I always mix my metaphors. My whole persona is fucking plov of mixed metaphors. God, I hear voices. I have gunpowder in my pocket. I wonder if I could blow this thing off.”
“Why do you have gunpowder in your pocket?”
“I don’t have a lighter, though. Zyi! Why don’t I smoke? You smoke right?”
“Why do you assume that?”
“You’re failing Farsi. Do you have a lighter on you?”
“Get over here then!”
“Tamerlane, I can’t find you! My click says you're inside a wall.”
“Find the wall ahmagh! If I get out of this alive, I’ll buy you some more kiki for your stash.”
“I don’t smoke fucking kiki!”
“Fine, we could start together! Get your ass over here, the voices are getting closer!”
A couple of unnerving minutes later, Vasya messaged again. “My click says I am right on top of you, but I am in the dining room of a falafel restaurant. Please don’t ask me to blow up a falafel restaurant. ”
“There’s nothing here. Wait! I do see an odd, circular piece of flooring. Is that your latch?”
“Probably. Can you cause some sort of distraction? Start a falafel fight or something?”
“I’m not blowing up a falafel restaurant. Can you find some other way out?”
“I’m sure I could. The wolf of Wall Street stopped barking up my tree, but I want falafels!”
“Asla, no, niet, z/at! Fuck! I'm totally blanking on the Farsi word for no! No fucking way!”
“Well then, good luck with your test tomorrow. Looks like you won’t even be able to say na to a fail.”
“Olmaz! Olmaz! Olmaz! doubt an A on a Farsi test would help me out in prison!”
“It could get you into a white-collar prison.” I said, pressing my mouth to the crack in the latch, grimacing at the taste of iron on my lips. “Everyone. We are going to need you to calmly and quietly evacuate the area. There is a problem with the deep-fryer.” I used a voice disguiser on my click so my words sounded deep and gravely, a far cry from my melodic tenor. “It could explode, spewing hot oil all over the restaurant,” I clarified.
I could hear people scrambling to their feet. “Quick!” I messaged Vasya, stuffing a packet of gunpowder through the hinge. “Just light the packet and step back. Don’t worry, no one will notice you. They are far too preoccupied with the idea of getting hot oil on their outfits.”
“Fuck. I can’t believe I’m doing this. I hope Tamerlane sits in a deep fryer for all eternity,” I heard Vasya mutter above me as he prodded the packet of gunpowder with a lighter.
I smelled burning plastic and retreated a few rungs down the ladder. An ear splitting bang disturbed the muted muffle of the shaft. I crawled out, pushing up the broken latch. “Nice work! You definitely deserve an A on your Farsi test. Wait, scratch that. I just realized I sound like a racist American from the early 21th century. I should stick to mixing metaphors. Entire conversations don’t work quite as well.”
“My hand! I burned my hand. You absolute fucking ass!” He showed me a tiny burn on his pinky finger.
“Should we steal some falafels? I’m hungry” I looked down at my jumpsuit. “Shit filled Şapka!” It was covered in blast dust.
“That ridiculous thing is vinyl. It will wipe off, you imbecile. I can’t believe you were teasing me about my mohawk, when you're wearing that.” He froze.
“Tamerlane. Run! Someone called the guard.”
“But I haven’t gotten my falafel yet!” I whined. Vasya pulled me out of the shop. The deck of the tanker has been transformed into an open air marketplace. It was well lit and busy despite the late hour and small explosion that had just occurred. “Wait. I have to stay close if I want to hack into the security cameras.”
“There were security cameras!”
“Of course. Don’t worry, it should be easy to take them out. I can’t imagine a falafel shop has a state-of-the-art security system. If I could break into the mafia's headquarters, this should be no problem.”
Vasya groaned. “I don’t think I want to know where all the mafia jokes are coming from.”
“You sure?” I asked through gritted teeth, distracted. “What the hell were they making these falafels out of!” I exclaimed after another failed attempt.
“Hurry up! The guards are at the door.”
The cameras finally gave in. “Okay, done. What should we do now?”
“I don’t know…clubbing, that place on the bottom level we were planning on checking out?”
“First, I need to clean the dust off my jumpsuit.”
Vasya was right. The blast dust wiped off easily and soon we filed down the stairs to one of Baku’s most popular new night clubs. It was almost dawn, but we had a good four hours before we had to be at school.
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