1.65 - Tawa the Techie

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.


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