1.68 - Existential

1.68 - Existential

I follow the coordinates to a different ward of Tortuga. This area looks nothing like the others I’ve been in. Buildings crumbling but still housing people. Trash covering the pathways and no shortage of seedy characters and others packed into tight corners or on staircases. I’ve never been here before but it’s a familiar place. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a mega sized space station, Earth, Mars or anywhere else; there’s always a ghetto. A place where if you’re poor it’s a fight just to survive. A place where criminals can hide amongst good people because they know law enforcement won’t look. I find Edan sitting on a bench, staring off into the artificial night sky.

“Hey,” I take a seat next to him.

“Hey,” he seems upset by something.

“What’s wrong?”

“Just thinking.”

“About,” I ask, he wants me to pry it from him but he’ll tell me right away like when we were kids.

“I owe you an apology,” he doesn’t take his eyes off the sky.

“The kidnapping? I’m over that,” not entirely. “You’ve treated me well, I’ve spent your money, had some interesting food and some good times. I even got a great new wrist comp.”

“No, for the trade going bad because I didn’t research the other party. An apology is owed for dragging out the response as well. I didn’t know how all of this would end, so I just kept dragging it along, not doing any work and making excuses.”


“No really, I just didn’t know what would come next. I got scared and I froze up because I didn’t know how to continue.”

“Seriously,” I interrupt him. “I don’t care. Let’s just go get this girl,” I stand from the bench and start walking.

“Other way,” he laughs as he rises from the bench and stretches.

The old metal building is covered in grime that hasn’t been wiped off in probably years. Inside is a hologram of a man operating as a check in. The floors are dirty, stained and sticky. There‘s an unrecognizable smell in the air. The place I used P.R.I.D.E. at wasn’t top of the line, but this place is closer to the bottom than the top. It’s the kind of place people go to when they’re running away from problems; Edan didn’t lie about that.

Rows of machines have people hooked in, helmets covering their faces, reclined in chairs. IVs run into their arms; it isn’t hard to tell the IVs are what’s keeping them locked in. Up higher a second level of machines have been placed on what look to be shelves extending from the wall. A quick scan of the bags with my wrist comp tells me they’re full of experimental drugs with names I couldn’t begin to pronounce. The whole place gives me a sick vibe, no decorations, no furniture, just machines. The quiet hum and our footsteps peeling off the floor with each step are the only sounds as we make our way towards the back, looking for an office.

“You said you tried one of these before right,” Edan asks.

“Yeah, it was nice. A little disorienting when I came out but nice,” I leave out the part about my terrible reaction to the drugs.

“I always wanted to try one, but this building makes the whole thing seem,” he pauses for a word, “eerie.”  

“I know what you mean, lined up like this, with so many crammed into a tight space. It’s almost like a storage facility.”

“You know we’re shutting this place down right,” Edan asks.

“I don’t have any objections.”  

At the end of the building there’s a small office. Inside is a Meteorian man sitting behind a desk staring into a holographic display where a woman is sitting on a couch. I’ve seen enough videos to know he’s into classic pornography. I’m just glad we got here before he reached the good part.

“Wow, is everyone in here trying to get their rocks off,” Edan asks.

The Meteorian fumbles to turn off the hologram, shouting obscenities. It’s not a big deal, we just caught him before he was going to partake in some self-love. He reaches for the desk drawer, and I know he’s going for a gun. I rush forward pushing the desk backwards sandwiching him between the desk and the wall.

“What do you want,” he shouts knowing he’s trapped.

“Not a handshake,” Edan laughs plugging his wrist comp into the terminal at the desk.

“We’re here to free the people you’ve been exploiting,” I answer his question.

“They paid good money to be here,” The Meteorian argues.

“I’m sure they did,” I respond.

“Well, that was easy. No real security at all,” Edan unplugs. “Kids should be waking up. What do we do with him?”

“Take his gun, tie him up and leave him,” I shrug.

“Great idea. Let’s just hope he’s not into bondage,” Edan laughs.

I let Edan work the crowd of people waking up and give instructions. He’s good with people, keeps everyone calm. I might even say he’s charming. I know I couldn’t lead a group of disoriented teenagers to safety. He promises to get them all home safely, one at a time. I follow his lead, helping people regain their balance. Calling transport services, pairing up people headed in the same direction. I’m better with the details but this needs both of us. 43 kids are sent on their way when we’re finished but Edan hangs back with 44, the one we came for.  

“I’ll make sure she gets home safely, you go get ready. Hit the shooting range, do some stretches or whatever you military dogs do,” Edan gives me a crooked salute as he gets into the backseat of taxi. I watch as the shuttle slowly lifts into the air before taking off. Once they’re out of view I remove the Meteorian’s gun from my pocket. Poorly made, cheap, and likely to jam. I break off a piece of the firing mechanism and toss the gun in the trash. If I have to shoot someone, I’d rather do it with a gun that isn’t likely to shoot me as well. 


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