1.65 - Tawa the Techie

Edan, Nastas and I stop walking as the two stare blankly at what seems to be a regular apartment door. It looks like every other door in this complex but the two look to be gathering themselves for some great test of courage. From what they’ve told me we’re going to see a man named Tawa that’s nothing short of unique, but they weren’t too clear about what made him unique.

“I can’t do it,” Edan says as I move to buzz the intercom.

“It’s not that bad, we’ll be in and out. Please, do not leave me alone. The ramifications can be astronomical,” Nastas begins.

“Will someone tell me what’s going on,” I cut off their bickering.

“Tawa, is a very nice person with some special traits,” Edan starts. He suddenly slams his hand on the intercom button and takes off running before shouting, “good luck.”

“Come on in, I was expecting you,” a pleasant voice comes from the speaker. “Edan said he had an errand to run but you would be stopping by.”

“Bastard,” Nastas mumbles as the door slides open.

The first thing that hits me is the smell. The smell is worse than anything I’ve ever smelled and I've smelled rotting corpses in a mass grave before. That was disgusting, a scent that never truly leaves your nostrils, but this smell actively attempts to strangle me. Nastas seems laser focused stepping in. I follow, choking down vomit, because I need to know what’s going on here.

“Welcome Nastas, I see you brought a new friend,” a voice speaks to us seemingly from nowhere and everywhere at once.

“Edan’s brother Efrem,” Nastas keeps the sentences short for once.

“Hello Edan’s brother Efrem,” the voice giggles.

“Hello,” I respond, tasting the stale air as I speak.

I take a few steps and glance around as they exchange pleasantries and catch up. There’s nobody here as far as I can tell. There are plenty of speakers out in the open that bring the voice to us. I start to pick up on several cameras in the apartment as well; likely giving the person behind the voice a live feed of us. I wave one of the less hidden cameras, letting them know I’m watching too.

“Tawa right,” I ask during a pause in the conversation.

“Yes, I’m Tawa.”

“Are you actually here in the apartment?”

“I knew you would ask,” the voice giggles, “I’m in the bathroom, you can peek at me if you like,” it’s suddenly clear to me the voice is attempting to mimic a teenaged girl. With that sentence it’s became very unsettling.

I make my way toward the bathroom door, wishing I had a side arm before Nastas grabs my elbow, “It is not for the faint of heart.”

“Well that’s not me,” I push open the door.

Inside the stench of dried blood takes on the smell of filth. Old blood has dried and stained the floors and walls of the bathroom. The room’s temperature is a massive shock, as if walking from Hell into a freezer. The centerpiece is a naked Meteorian man soaking in a bathtub of partially frozen water. His eyes are rolled into the back of his head displaying just the black area that would surround the pupils. More disturbing is the number of tubes going into his body, each extending from different parts of the wall. Blood surrounds and leaks from what look to be homemade ports for the tubes to enter. He’s a netrunner but the tech is old, risky and honestly a surprise to still work. Netrunners almost live on the internet, searching at a pace that our brains can’t normally comprehend. Most people do it now with a helmet that links up to an input at the base of their skull. He’s at least fifty years past due for an upgrade. It’s not the first time I’ve seen a netrunner use old equipment, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it in a place that wasn’t in the midst of war.

“He’s a netrunner,” Nastas says closing the door of the bathroom behind him.

“Noticed, but the tech is old. I don’t see why he wouldn’t get new gear, go mobile.”

“It’s all he had when they reached Tortuga. This was cutting edge when he first got here,” the scent isn’t bad in here so Nastas is back to normal. “Our people fled with what they could. While things have progressed much further and there are all kinds of new fancy skills we Meteorians don’t quickly throw out the old. There are still uses for old things and often the old is just as reliable if not more reliable than the new. Cherish the youth, or new technology in this situation, but trust the old. Take guns for instance. There are guns that fire lasers, hypersonic bursts, use water to pierce, acid and so on. But, the most popular all use bullets. Why? Because it works, always has, always will.”

“I can hear you, I’m right here,” the voice comes through the speakers still. “Well said Nastas. I always enjoyed the way you speak.”

“I’m sorry if I offended you,” I quickly apologize.

“It’s no problem, you are unaware of our customs or history. As long as you are willing to learn and treat them with care, questions are always welcome.”

“Thank you.”

“No, thank you. I don’t have many visitors and you are the most interesting.”

Nastas coughs, “can we get to the business at hand? Time is of the essence.”

“I have the information. I’ll require 166,000 credits,” the voice gleefully answers.

“What,” Nastas asks almost in shock “That’s more than we are being paid for the job.”

“Information is not cheap.”

“I get that. I understand more than many men or women would in this situation. However, the price your are requesting boarders on extortion. This is crazy.”

“It was a lot of work to track this down. Staiv’al do not have any real organization, especially criminals.”

“But this is more than twice the usual price.”

“This was more work. This is the friend price. You and your comrades are the only people who come in person. I owe you greatly, which is why you get the discount.”

“Tawa, I cannot accept these terms.”

“What if we make a deal,” I interrupt.

“You have no authorization to make a deal on behalf me or The Pariah Crew,” Nastas interrupts.

“Shut up and let the man speak,” Tawa interrupts him.

“How about you provide us with the information for 42,000 credits,” I offer.

“That is a very steep discount. What do I get in return?”

“We’ll clean your apartment; the crew will visit once a month and hang out with you.”

“Do you think I’m lonely,” Tawa asks.

“I didn’t word it that way, but I think so.”


“Netrunners tend to be lonely. They get used to their minds moving faster than everyone else’s or they start to think of the world in code. You fill your apartment with junk, looks like you only eat takeout. You had the information we requested but still prefer to leave your body in a coma as you talk with us through cameras. I think you’re lonely; we’re all fundamentally lonely but you may have agoraphobia or some anxiety as well.”

“50,000, two visits a month and you have to come.”

“I don’t live in this sector of space but I’ll make the trip once a year and I’ll give you my contact information so we can exchange messages regularly.”

“You drive a very hard bargain,” Tawa pauses for a moment. “Deal.”

“Nastas, get the crew together, and tell them bring cleaning supplies.”

“You’re worse than your brother, this is no way to do business,” Nastas mumbles as he leaves the bathroom.

“In my line of work, we call it favor for a favor,” I laugh.

“You’re not going to follow him,” Tawa asks.

“No, I thought we could chat, get to know each other while we wait on the others. You going to hop offline and join us?”

“I’m never offline with others, but I suppose I could join you in person.”

“Thank you.”

We chat for a while, and Tawa tells me about what shows and movies are popular around here. Eventually Tawa goes silent for a long time, slowly the hum of machines in the bathroom begin to go quiet before coming to a complete silence. There’s a massive deep breath and Tawa sits up in the bathtub spilling water, ice and blood on the floor as he quickly removes the various tubes and wires from himself before climbing out the bathtub, stopping on all four as he regains his breathing. I help him up from the ground, he wraps an arm around my shoulder and leans on me.

“That was, a lot,” is all I can say after witnessing it.

“It helps to have someone get me off the ground, otherwise I might be there for half an hour as my body readjusts.”

“How about I help you get some clothes on before the others come?”

Tawa glances down, “I guess I should put some clothes on. Guests probably don’t like to be greeted naked.”

“Sometimes they do,” I laugh as I help him out of the bathroom and into the stench that will hopefully be gone soon.

Black Friday #1 - Arthur Ashe

I've been working another project which is why chapters have been delayed, sorry. I'll be back on point next week. For now, enjoy what I've been working on.

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1.64 - The Hangover

I wash down a bite of my omelet with a sip of orange juice. The flavor is great, and washes away the dryness of the omelet. Edan seems pained with every bite of food or sip of his drink. Still, he’s doing a lot better than last night. I couldn’t carry him any further and used a coatrack to take him to the hotel room. At least now he can eat properly, even if the hangover is taking a toll on him. At least the café we stopped at to have breakfast is quiet. Tortuga amazes me; this place seems like an endless metal monstrosity, yet there’s always these beautiful spots to feel like you’re on the most amazing planet. A small café with a forest motif, complete with grass carpets and wooden tables made to look like logs.

“Hey, you need to take better care of yourself, I won’t always be around to take care of you,” I sound like Mom lecturing Dad.

“Yeah, I know. It’s just nice that you are right now,” he shifts in his seat to avoid the artificial sun shining through the fake windows.

“Well don’t overdo it. I know we haven’t been in contact for a long time, but we’re not going to lose touch anymore,” I shift my seat to block the light from his eyes.


“No problem,” I take another bite while he struggles through a glass of coffee. “If I’m going to stick with you until this thing is over, I need to know everything. Let’s start with who, attacked us last night. You said Straiv’al. I’ve done my research but I need to know if they were enemies or just a set up.”

“Just a random hit by a flock. I don’t deal with Straiv’al,” he pauses, “don’t think I’m racist or anything. It’s just they tend to stab everyone in the back and rob deals, even their own. As you can see they had no problem going at both sides of our little deal.”

“Unaffiliated guerillas focusing on wealth not political means. Probably think they’re untraceable. Alright. Next question, what was the deal? You all kept your lips sealed but I need to know.”

“You putting together some army plan because I really can’t follow right now. Mentally, I’m just not there yet.”

“Eat your food and drink more. Hangovers can be prevented with proper hydration. It’s funny I have to treat you like one of my soldiers.”

“Whatever,” Edan rolls his eyes, but takes a drink of water this time.

“Alright, the deal. Break it down.”

“We were hired by a client, I’ll call him Phil. Phil’s son was taken. Phil works at a company that has some really groundbreaking tech. He stole it, and gave it to us. We were making a trade for the cash. We’d give the cash to Phil, he’d pay the ransom for his son.”

I struggle to project a display on my wrist comp that I can write on. Edan shakes his head and continues to eat as I lay out my board with the information that we’ve got. I don’t make any connections or try to figure out plots between nations. This is just some criminal stuff, and I’m out of my element. I’ll need his help filling in the gaps.

“We’ve got three goals. Number one, we get back the tech that was stolen. No need for Phil to lose his job. Number two, we get back the cash that was taken so we can pay the ransom. Number three, we go get Phil’s son ourselves.”

“Do I have any say in this? I smuggle stuff, broker deals and steal the occasional item. But, I’m not big on the whole kick in the door save the day thing.”

“No, you don’t get a say in this. But, since you’re the captain, I’ll let you present it all as your idea.”

“Fine, what’s the first step?”

“We need to collect some information on who hit us.”

“How do you suppose we do that?”

“You telling me you don’t know any information brokers, fixers, or anything like that?”

“I know plenty, but I only know one guy around here,” Edan seems disgusted at the thought.

“Sounds like you don’t want to call him.”

“I don’t.”

“Call him anyway.”

“I’ll call Nastas and he can call.”

Edan makes the call while I finish my breakfast. He doesn’t want to eat more, but I make him. It’s the same with drunken soldiers. Make them eat, drink water and give it an hour they’ll be through it. Nastas arrives looking more damaged than Edan. He’s wearing a large curved hat to keep the light from his eyes. The usual neat robe he wears has been replaced with knee high boots, green shorts and a yellow tank top displaying a combination of muscle as well as the stone like structure of Meteorian skin.

“What is so urgent that you felt the need to contact me at a time like this,” Nastas starts one of his long speeches again.

“Nope, got a hangover. Not doing this. We need to go see Tawa.”

“Tawa,” Nastas asks.

“Yeah, Tawa,” Edan places a hand on his shoulder.

“Shit,” Nastas rolls his eyes.

“That’s it? That’s all you have to say,” I ask causing Edan to burst into laughter before the pain of his hangover calms him down.