1.67 - Different DNA

There’re so many different kinds of music on Tortuga, and a few that blur the lines on what can safely be called music.  I feel like an actual tourist in this place. I never got more than a few hours to explore when I was out on duty. New foods, new places, new stores. I never really cared much about what shoes or clothes I was wearing as long as the colors didn’t clash. Now I find myself looking at expensive shoes and clothes just because they aren’t what I’m used to seeing. Edan lent me some money, but I’m hesitant to spend it, afraid I’ll find something better right around the next corner. More than that, I need a hobby or something. I never had time for them before but walking around window shopping doesn’t seem like a productive way to spend my time. Should I take up painting? Maybe I can try to make my own music. How am I not a complete person at my age?

Before I can spend more time thinking about potential free time and how I still don’t know what to do with it I get a call from Edan on my wrist comp. He’s been trying to track down an ethical arms dealer, whatever that means. It hasn’t been easy, and most of them are looking for prices that could only be paid for by black ops operations, private militaries or criminal organizations that are really good at being criminals. I can’t say I’m surprised by the prices, just surprised he didn’t have connections. I guess he wasn’t joking when he said there were things he wouldn’t transport.

“Big brother, have I told you how much I love you today,” Edan starts.

“What do you need help with?”

“Why do you assume I need help?”

“Because when we were kids, that’s how you would always ask for help.”

“You’ve got me there,” we share a laugh. “I’ve got some good news and some bad news.”

“Start with the bad news.”

“The guns are way more expensive than we wanted, and the guy doesn’t want to do business at all right now because of a family issue.”

“Well, what’s the good news?”

“Ethical gun runner,” Edan laughs.

“You’re a real unique individual.”

“Same DNA, but I’m one of a kind. How do you want to get the guns?”

“Same way we got things in the service. We do a favor for a favor.”

“I don’t do assassinations.”

“Doesn’t always have to be an assassination. Might be a recovering equipment, might be trading some technology.”

“I think he’s more worried about his family at the moment. Something neither of us know how to fix,” Edan stares blankly expicting some witty response, but I don’t have one.

“See if you can figure out what’s going on with his family. If we can help, that’ll get him on our side.”

I end the call before Edan starts telling more jokes. I know this whole thing has gone south and is probably really stressing him out, but he isn’t handling the pressure well. I think, or at least hope he’s stopped drinking so much. But I can’t be sure. I’m not tailing him every second of the day. Maybe Nastas was right, we should have just let this go. Trying to run an operation to get everything back might be too much pressure on Edan. He’s been smuggling things all over the galaxy, but it’s just that, smuggling. He hasn’t done anything like this as far as I know. But he’s my brother, my living brother. He grew up in the same terrible environment that I did so I expect him to be okay with it. Same DNA, but we aren’t the same people. He was right about that if nothing else. I’ve been trying too hard to make him be like me, or one of my soldiers.   

I wanted to stay when this was done. Explore the stars with my brother but I’m becoming a hindrance even if he won’t say it. Pushing him into confrontations he doesn’t want to be in, taking charge of operations, forcing him to reach out to costly contacts. I hope this all pays off in the end; if not I should be saving this money he leant me.  

Edan pops up on my wrist comp again, “Found out what’s going on with the guy’s family.”

“Okay, talk to me.”

“His daughter has gone missing. But, thanks to Tawa we know where she is.”

“We going to get her?”

“I’m already here. She’s been strapped into a virtual reality device for weeks. They keep the people alive, but it’s an extended simulation. Usually, you would take breaks but these people are running away from something, choosing to live fully digital instead. She likely wouldn’t want to go home because they rarely consider anything as home. They’re real virtual vagabonds.”

“Those things can be addictive; I tried a cheap version once, almost got me, but it was way too happy to be my life. Send me the coordinates.”  

“Let me know when you get here, I’m going to do some scouting. We’ll get the girl back.”

Same DNA, different people. But we do have similarities. We care about people; this girl is more important than the guns. We don’t even know if the guy will sell to us just because we bring his daughter home. We’re just hopeful that he’ll be grateful. We see the best in people, I just expect them to do the worst while he doesn’t. I wonder if it’s because I’ve seen war but he hasn’t. There’s no honor among thieves, but maybe there’s kindness. I don’t know. The location pings to my wrist comp, and I tap for directions. It’ll take about thirty minutes to get there, I really hope he doesn’t do anything I wouldn’t. 

1.66 - New Tactics


It took six hours for us to finish cleaning Tawa’s apartment. Enyolo didn’t come, Velphi was rather heavy handed and Nastas complained the entire time. Still, the apartment is clean. Everyone has headed back to the ship or hotel accommodations they secured on Tortuga except the lucky few of us remaining for a planning session.

“So, who’s the boss,” Edan asks as he sips from a glass of water.

Tawa swallows a bite of the cold and spicy noodle dish he served us. “A woman named Yana is the leader of their group. She’s done a brief stint in prison and is fond of neon tattoos so she’s really easy to spot when it’s dark.”

“I don’t see what her fashions sense has to do with the plan,” Nastas interrupts, still irritated.

“Oh, I can,” Nastas fumbles over his words, clearly uncomfortable.

“Let him finish. I’m sure he had more to tell us than just what she likes to wear,” I give him a nod.

“Yeah, it’s not as if you can be long winded,” Edan stares down Nastas.

“Thank you,” Tawa regathers his composure. “Yana has recently taken control of the group. Previously they primarily worked in smuggling drugs and people. Since she’s taken control, they’ve began a life of true piracy. Attacking ships and deals seemingly at random. They don’t have a preferred broker of jobs; so, word of mouth, hacked emails, stolen ship manifestos and anything else they can get their hands on is how they choose jobs. But, it looks like she’s been planning something big, as they’ve taken control of a large warehouse where they’ve been storing goods.”

Tawa gives the command and a projector shines down on the tabled displaying an exterior view of the warehouse. He swipes through cameras that he had taken control of, giving us a view of the layout and items inside. He’s strange, Edan didn’t lie about that. He also wasn’t lying when he said Tawa does good work.

“This is too much of a risk. There are no less than twenty people inside of that warehouse,” Nastas crosses his arms. “I propose we cut our losses now. The client will be disappointed but it will not hurt our reputation as a crew. He was aware of the risks involved when he chose to work with the kidnapers instead of the authorities.”

“We’re just going to let Phil lose his job and his son because it might be dangerous,” I ask Nastas.

“Who is Phil,” He asks both confused and enraged.

“The client,” Edan chimes in.

“You are a guest on The Pariah,” Nastas raises his voice, “you have no say in how we conduct our business or dealings. It would behoove you to remember your place,” Nastas drops the long winded persona as he speaks to me.

“You’ve got a place for me? Put me in it. But, you’re going to have to do more than talking.”

“Are you asking me for a fight?”

“I didn’t ask you for anything. I never will. But if it’s a fight you want, I’m sure we could arrange something.”

Edan places a hand on my shoulder to calm me before speaking to Nastas. “I understand you have your reservations. We don’t deal with drug dealers and human smugglers because they’re dangerous. More dangerous than what we usually do. I’m not going to ask you to participate in the raid, because there will be a raid. I’m only going to ask you to fence the goods,” Nastas is fuming but doesn’t respond to Edan. “Oh, one more thing. At the end of the day, this is my ship, my crew and you may be the first mate, but Efrem is my brother. It doesn’t matter if you think he oversteps his boundaries or doesn’t talk to you nicely. If you have a problem with him, then you have a problem with me. If you have concerns, voice them. Now, or forever hold your peace.”

I’ve never seen Edan like this before. It’s almost as if he really is the captain of a ship, not just someone flying through the skies and pretending to be a smuggler or pirate for fun. I’m glad he defended me even if I didn’t need it.

“I will not partake in the raid and I shall voice my concerns to you privately, not in front outsiders,” Nastas speaks to Edan before standing. “Tawa, I apologize if I have offended you or your home. I shall leave now. Farewell.”

Tawa makes a strange sound somewhere between a grunt and sigh as he gives Nastas a strange wave goodbye. “I don’t read social situations well, but even I can tell that didn’t seem good. Do you two need a moment?”

“No,” Edan laughs and takes another sip of his water.

“You sure, because that was tense,” Tawa asks.

“We’re good,” I chime in.

“Do you have a plan,” Tawa asks moving along.

“I got nothing, it’ll probably end in a full blown fight, which I don’t do. I also don’t do killing,” Edan shrugs.

“I’m sure we can get some non-lethal rounds from somewhere. It’ll be easy if we can get one or two people inside. Then we bottle neck them out the front door and pick them off from there. The easiest way to do that would have two people infiltrate, and kick start some shock and awe. Smoke, loud bangs and flashes.”

“This is some real military dog behavior,” Edan laughs.

Tawa hesitantly laughs along with Edan, still unsure of the mood. The situation is a lot less tense as we go over the finer details of the plan. We’re hoping to run it with just Edan, Enyolo, Velphi and myself at the warehouse while Tawa hacks their electronics from his home. Tawa seems really eager to participate after meeting the rest of the crew for the first time. I don’t think he was joking when he said he rarely has any visitors. I’m glad we can help him feel better, but I’m concerned about Nastas. I got the feeling he didn’t like me when we first met, but he’s really making it known. I don’t care if he doesn’t like me, he isn’t the first. My concern is that he may do something to Edan or something that puts him in danger.

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.