I knew after I wrote this story that the subject matter could be viewed as controversial, but given the political climate since 9/11, to date I’ve never written a story I felt needed to be published more than this one. It took about fifteen rejections before I found someone willing to do so, thanks to the suggestion from an author in my writer’s group. I’m thankful that Sci Phi Journal took this on. Below you may read the beginning of the story and at the bottom you will find a link to the rest at the Sci Phi Journal website.

Look at those fishmongers out on the docks, howling like a pack of hyenas, holding hands and dancing like there’s no God. Singing their dirty Suez folk songs. That little girl must be eight or nine, and still no headscarf? What the hell is wrong with these people? Papa’d have a heart attack if one hadn’t killed him already.

The creak of my apartment window drowns out the cacophony as I close it. It’s a second of mercy, but the single, cracked pane barely muffles the song. Papa thought moving us from Los Angeles with its bare flesh everywhere would quiet the temptation, but Port Saeed’s got its own whispers of sin.

There’s only one way to silence them.

First I need my nanites. Quick reflexes are for more than just football—the one kind of fun Papa said God sanctioned. I grab my medi-jet from the dresser, press it to my arm. It hisses, driving the microscopic bots through my skin. I pull on my boxer shorts and jeans before slipping on a black-hooded sweatshirt.

God help me, they just started drawing faces on the asphalt with chalk. Art is the gateway to sin! I never did find the words in the Book that said so, but Papa always said true believers learn to read between the lines. Do these people call themselves believers? I’ll give them something to believe.

Selim’s pawn shop is a mess, but I know he’ll have what I’m looking for. The rumor Selim spreads in the apartments of the Port Saeed’s well-to-do is that his shop is a front for grey-market nanite programs. Sex with a beautiful Hollywood AI, a megalomaniac’s wet dream, virtual murder sims, anything government officials frown on publically and smile on privately.

None of which I’m looking for, because the truth that Selim’s rumor hides is that he sells the tools of death in his basement. I can’t just ask him for one—everyone knows every public space is bugged by government security. It’s just a matter of making sure he knows what I’m asking for while convincing government security that I’m asking for something else.

The old man smiles. “You’re becoming a regular, Adam.”

I make a gun with my fingers, point and shoot at a stuffed gazelle’s head on the wall. “I’m looking for a woman. Digital type.”

Selim looks at me sharp and sidelong from behind a glass counter littered with vintage electronics. I guess he didn’t know that I know how to buy a gun in Port Saeed. Why would he? I never bought one before. Not from him, anyway.

“Yes, but is she looking for you?” Selim says.

I flash the contents of my wallet, thumbing the ten bills like a deck of cards. It’s all like some lousy spy movie, but I play the game anyway.

Selim raises the counter flap and rolls a runner carpet behind the counter up, revealing a trap door. He flips it open and nods toward the opening. “Wait inside.”

You wouldn’t know this basement belonged to the shop. A digital photo frame propped on a desk flashes images of a middle-aged woman—kissing a baby girl, posing beside a younger Selim, fishing at the pier. No papers, envelopes or other errant crap of life clutter the desk. In every image, the woman’s hair is covered save a few wisps of blonde hair escaping the headscarf. Good, pious woman. Good Selim.

The door above closes and Selim descends the stairs. “We can talk freely down here.”

Read the rest of Platinum Blonde at Sci Phi Journal here.

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