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RSI.com The Knowledge of Good and Evil: Part One

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Writer’s Note: Part one of The Knowledge of Good and Evil was published originally in Jump Point 2.9.

Street make you rat, no choice i’ give. Know tha’ truth, an’ live.

Tha’ first rhyme ‘m learn on Bazaar Street. Truth is, street don’ owe null thing ta no one. Jus’ livin’ is debt ta the street. Street come ta collect wheneve’ i’ will. Null stop it. Rat like me got start tha street young. Real young. Innocent? Maybe. Ain’ null long till know ’m poor. So learnin’ suits and comp. Gear ’m fixin is stole most-like, sold on tha Black. My work done clean? Maybe. Know what a know neve’ gone get me none place. Know ‘nough ta stay live. Null know ta much cause that kill rat. ’m rat, an street owns me.

Got bitter in hole like Bazaar Street slum. Got come out tunnels and face sky. Got “practical” after ticks. Me? Got two skills that gear rats has: one skill ta learn tech as ’m take i’ apart, two skill an ‘magination an guess how supposed ta work as a put thing back right. Tha’ suit come from ‘facturer ain’t never heard of? ‘Sure Boss, can fix.’ Tha’ be the way, ta live on Bazaar Street. Or ya die.

Only best like ’m get be “gear rats.” Bazaar bosses won’ get rats in if you ain’ good at business. Rats no’ good at business if ‘em null learn gear. An ‘em can’ none learn tha gear if ‘em weren’ into tha Bazaar. So how ta got good, make an ‘mpression an get be gear rat? Break rules, none get caught, an make good on i’.

Wasn’ gonna be “nothing” workin’ scrap or debt slave. Rats got risk some. Hav’ ta. Get caugh’ breakin’ rules an be off ta slavers null time. Find way pass guards an through holes ta watch from corner an learn business. Them bosses knew we’s there, sure. Them know how Bazaar work. Got caught once time. Guards a‘most gave me ta pack creepers ta watch. “Pay due and the street might none eat you.”

Doin’ a’right as gear rat. Got clients who know me. Some who want more out o’ me ain’ gon’ give em. An’ ‘m only 10 ticks. Sick like creepers them, bu’ pay creds for fixin’. So ’m ‘fix’ ta bazaar shop ‘bout now. Null work fa full rotate. Boss gon’a rage some maybe.

Glint this lady. She been in eve’ fix shop and hack stand down da line, b’for she get ta Boss Dirk shop an me in i’.

“I’m looking for a fixer.” Da lady say.

“Ya found one. Hells lady, you found dem all. Glint i’ all down tha row. Some’n tells you need special fixer an ’m best here ‘round. Wha’ you need?”

She look ‘round, “Shouldn’t I speak to the shopkeeper, young one?”

Lady don’ know then. First time in Bazaar, maybe. EZ creds.

“Boss is out. ’m here, an ’m you fixer. You want somethin or just gawkin’ at street rats? ’m best fixer in Bazaar. None need proof. You got need lady or jus’ suckin’ O2?”

She come up with an old comp glass out her clothes. Almost like lady dress from fash vids but coat like. ‘m got good eyes an ain’ seen no place big ‘nough ta hold that comp. Take scan on it quic’.

“Tha’ oldie? Ain’ even none facture mark on i’. Deal ta sells ya newa one Dirk has in shop.”

Craz Oldie none bite. “No, young one. I need this exact device repaired. So I suppose I’ll have to go elsewhere if all you can do is sell and not fix.”

That some barter talk. From this Oldie? None first time in Bazaar, locked on that now.

“Don’ work for none-names or ‘nonymous. What you tag youself?” Put out my hand to seal i’.

“I’m called Mother Superior by most.”

“Got,” said me an grabbed her hand to seal le-git deal. “’m can fix your comp Mom Super. Hold one.”

So went on i’ and done. Lady watchin’ whole time. Like street rat tryin’ ta learn tech. Simp damge on one board. Old damge some. Othe’s fixe’s prob look lock at i’ an done miss i’.

Lady look an’ gawk some. “I looked a hundred times and never saw that. How did you see such a small thing and know to fix it?”

“Seen once on board like i’ some ‘bout one tick back. Null forget wha’ got once. ‘m bes’ fixer here lady. Know i’ truth.” ‘m got hand out ta get paid.

Lady pays, real creds. An she made outbounds real slow. Glint her spottin tha shop few count. More an once. Craz Oldie that. Boss say late’a tha’ Mom Super is’a Sis-ter. Info Trader. Neve seen one trade none. Sis-ters trade kine’a info Rat don’t need. Thin’s like got rats killed. Things maybe boss gon’ need know.

Craz Oldie, white some in da head hair. ‘m think she know ‘m got fixin for wha’ she gots broke. All razzy show ta go all dem other shops. Knows she gonna get me to work in and on i’. Ain’ null rhyme ta tha razzy show she do. Wha’ ain’ no rhyme for is dead danger. So I glint an lock her in my head. Gon bring Craz with her sum tick. Rat’s gotta sure gut on dat.

She come back aft’ seven day. Got bring me comp, buying favs maybe.

“Wha’ ‘m do with tha’ old comp lady?” Oldie comp, better than I ever had. Old like some comps and gear I fix on.

“Whatever you wish I’d suppose. You seem to have a knack for such things.” Oldie gab like Up’s do. Lookin at me as ‘m null take it.

“Got paid for fixin’ tha comp ya brought last. What this buyin’?”

“An investment in your talents is how I see it.”

Boss Dirk got tell me once tha’ investment means long time debt. Some neve’ collec’. Some collect on i’ big. Null know which when i’ come. Them got risk some. Got profit? Maybe.

Aft’ long think ‘m take i’.

Mom Super don’ say null else. Jus’ smile. Know risk when got some, but lady rub i’ in with tha smilin’.

Casey Gang glint tha comp an Mom Super makin outbound aft’. Should’a ‘magined thems ta come an take tha comp. Boss Dirk only protect his gear rats when tha shop’s open. Nights long som’times. Near snuffed me when Casey boys took i’. Tha chunk one ben’ ove’ me ta gab some.

“You should know better than to try and have nice things.” ‘m got spat on then. “You’ll never be an Up. You’ve got a debt to pay and this street owns you. You’ll always be a street rat.”

Half swole, dim eye an hungry ‘s how got to bosses shop nex’ light up. Boss Dirk don’ say no-thin’. Night business, that. Rat business. Think some ‘bout Mom Super “investment” an’ long debt ‘m got. ‘m know it when ‘m take tha comp. Turned on me boost quick tha risk.

Why tha hell can’ craz Up leave rat like me ‘lone?

Stop tha’ b’for i’ got bigger. Why’s get a rat killed if ‘m look deep. ‘m try an clean in tha sink an’ snatch glint of me in tha reflec.

“Tha color blue and black on bruise look shiney.” ‘m think.

Think then, tha’ blue on black look shiner on them. Smile’n hurt. Tha’ didn’ stop it. Twistin’ trouble back on itself ‘nother skill rats got know no matter what. Learnin’ tha’ figures ta how long ta live ya might got. Slum luck, razzy Up in RSI gear come in tha shop jus’ then. ‘m face all bust an hard ta gab. Up see an went an called out Boss man ‘bout roughen rats.

“Wasn’ Boss” ‘m say.

Up’s none copy wha’ rat saying. Got rage some aft’ look me. Up walk out on Boss Dirk. Boss Dirk don’ ev’n look at me, “Go on walkabout and I don’t want to see you till you make it right.”

Like hearing death, that.

None be in the shop cause ‘m lost him creds. Maybe big creds. Know what game Bazaar boss playin’. Got make up the creds, street debt that, or null work shop more. Work is Safe-ty. Gets rat trade bits, tools. Gear rats snuffed if got null shop an boss. So got ‘magine ta make cred back, boost fast.

‘m got system ta make good. Priorities. Lock wha’ work pays an’ who ‘m owe wha’. Neve owe none long. Nose out ‘thers business until them got in mine. Neve’ start fight. Finish ‘em hard if them come.

Got debt ta street an know tha’ good. Know null ask questions. Know ta dodge tha creeper. Know drugs kill some, but bein’ desperate be better at killing. Know ta steal fast, run an null fight, cheat fair, deal double an null trus’. Trus’ sa kinna deal get you killed while ‘em all smiles. Slums got say, “Killed by kindness.” Learn tha’ boost quick.

P‘rent leave them crier kid on tha streets at five ticks old. Mine did. Tha’ when a ‘come rat an could beg ‘n steal my live. Same tick p’rent don’ have ta take tha crier ta Gov medics none more. Gov Medics give shots and make sure rats got ID. Gov Blues got to know who they arresting is. Gov cares bout lookin like they care. Lookin like Up’s don’ ignore packs a rats ‘round Bazaar.

When ‘m five ticks them camp up and in ‘gether. Crawl tunnels. Oldies be too big ta get through. ‘s when my learn tha rhymes. Street rat learnin’ them. “Learn tha rhymes, live long times.” Youngie’s makes safe camps in tunnels. Safe nights, mostly. Seen my first murder at seven ticks, over pride. Honor worth killin for when rat got null else.

When ‘m nine ticks, beat some seven tick with mu slag cause them stole my las’ food. Two ticks or three more an seven, you gettin’ too big too ta get in tunnels. Ones dat stay, after them “grow up”? Them dead. Might find ‘em after. Maybe long aft’. Ones dat got stuck tryin to get out da wors’. Ain’ none soul in ’em eyes. Null.

Rats ride rails some time. Mos’ runners on Up business. Gov Blues that glint rats ‘ll lock on an then drop off long as ya don’ spook. Been here rails most two hours null-stop. Even seen one Sister, like Mom Super. Jus’ two Up’s on this rail now. One look’n like them wanna live Bazaar style, but like Up mus’ think i’ like.

Ain’ found null mark ta pick till this ripe come on. Up punk got loose pocks an ‘m scan cred chit on him. Bad idea them chits. Thems way ta buy easier on the Black an no get flagged by central. Or get picked.

Nex rail stop come up now an make my pick. Least try ta. Hands in tha marks pock an gots pain on my wrist. Aint none feel like it. Know quick what is. Honey pot. Gov Blue sting, an fell for honey. Blue grab me an latch on my shirt.

“Well what do we have here? And why is your hand in that pocket do you think?” He gabbed.

Got my words workin pas’ pain. “Glint lock ya chit gonna fall out an gon make sure i’ don’ Mr. Up.”

“Mr. Up is it? Not Mr. Blue? I’m out here to catch scabs like you. Either you’re a dumb street rat or you think I’m a sap.” Him eye scan’n me at that. “You know I’ve caught you red handed. That’s a conviction right there.” Lookin’ a my hand. Stuck in the Blue’s pock. Made ta catch a snatch like ‘m be.

Know solid ‘m on lock down. Null shake Blue’s Vid and Gab. Ticks in pris. Pris means knowin’ too much. Neve’ come back, rats tha’ got pris ticks.

Got try juke this. Heard some Blues barter. “What i’ take ta not be red handed.”

Blue come real close. “Well now, since you ask.” he say in hush say. Real close.

Don’ eve’ think as I hit tha Blue. Ain’t got my slag, none on rails. Hit him same as any creeper. Then pain come. Blue’s suit lights come on. He din’ have his Vid rig capt’ing till now. Think ‘m deep in now. An he shocks me with his spark-stick. An world goes black.

* * *

Got none lock on how got ta Judge time. Most blur. Shock? Maybe. Craz Oldie come outa none-where. Like lady didn’ do ‘nough ta rat like me ‘ready. Thinkin’ maybe like she know how street works. She come in an on it.

“Wha’ else you wan’ from me, Oldie? Ain’ got none else!” Aft’ I say it Judge tell me null ta “out-burst” ‘gain.

Mom Super only look me once. ‘m stand there cuffs on an Judge gabbin at her like ‘m understan’. Craz Oldie goes on i’ hard. “This child has rights, Your Honor, and though guilty of a petty crime, this one is the victim of a crime much more heinous . . .” Gabbed in Up talk for me ta Judge. Fel’ like hours she gab at him. An got some Vid too. Can’ jist half it. An Judge got quiet some. Rats know when an Up got quiet some’ bad wrong.

Then i’ come, “The child is remanded into your custody and an investigation will be opened.”

Krac Krac

Courthouse Blue got my cuffs off. ‘an Mom Super take my hand like sealin’ deal. Leg-it.

“Come along, young one.” She say. An I got go with her Blue say.

Understand sealed deals. Le-git. Some-else callin’ shots an ‘m jus’ rat.

* * *

Neve’ been this deep in bad ‘fore. “Ride the wave, you be okay. Don figh’ back, or be dead fas’” Got ride i’ an’ Trip ta tha Hall ‘s all blur an flashes some. Think nev been this far from Bazaar ‘for. Got ta i’ an all I has ‘s me and gov clothes. Indust kind door closin behind us. More like wall movin. ‘Bout time i’ close looked like just wall. Hallway we in ‘s dim lit. Tried lock where door is an what’s ‘round. So I won’ lose it. Doin’ i’ maked me stare.

Lady catch me at it.

“The only way in or out of here, young one.” She say.

Lady know how ta make you feel “at home.” That what she’d called it. On the rails ride. Said it’s “home.” Cage? Maybe. I’m in deep grav well. Null booster. I got the one-in one-out as challenge an half threat. Well, would call i’ threat if didn’ think tha oldie was tellin’ truth. From tha look, place been built out the hull an old cryo-sleep. Kind ta carry all the gear, raw mat’erial an people ta build station an colony tha world. Some these been used. Once, long time gone. Jump tech made ‘em dead tech ‘fore some reached their destin.

Is’n small hallway. Got be least five meter tall an three wide. Hall’s brown an dus’y. Dus’ floatin’ the air. Light come from clear roof an some non-stan wall tech. Eve’y two meters pillar come out the wall some. Lady starts down hall leavin me. I ain’ realize till ‘m left some. Cause I starin’ more. Got catch ta her an made I didn’ lose lock to tha door in my head.

“I’ll show you to your room and where the meal hall and necessary are.” Mom Super sayin’ like tour Vid or some.

“Is ‘m prisoner here? An guards?” Got ask. Got get tha lay here.

Craz Oldie ‘most choked on laugh.

“Ha! A prisoner are you?” Lookin at me over her shoulder. “No, young one. No guards to bribe here. No chains. Not even a mean look from your fellow inmates, as there are none. Just me and my fellow Sisters.”

Like she read minds ‘bout bribes the guards. I got quick feel wrong for asking. Why’s she lookin at me tha’ like? Got my eye out a lookin’ at hers. Eye scanned blank wall I could find. “Ain’ this punishment, right? I got caught bustin’ up that Blue an now I gotta delta.”

“None of that street slang here, young one. The word is ‘change,’ not ‘delta.’ The magistrate owed me a favor and released you to me under the condition that I maintain custody of you until your majority. So you are under my watch, yes. A prisoner? Hardly. You will find all the things here you will need to live and, if you so choose, learn.”

She don’ say more for ‘while. I got some wha’ she gabbed but i’ don’ copy.

“Ahh here we are.” She stop nex’ ta door look like metal sticking out. She pull on tha metal with her hand an i’ opened. A’hind i’ ‘s room with chairs an table. Walls right an left got four more doors.

“The second on the left will be yours, young one.” She said.

“Mine wha’?”

“Your room, of course.”

“Like shop?”

Some’ mus’a mean somethin’ ta tha craz old lady. Like she got dus’ blinked an rubbed her eyes.

“Of course. How could I be so foolish. This is obviously not something you’re used to. Each one of us here has our own place to sleep and have our own things.” She smiled like hidin’ think.

We walk to the second left door an open it. I glint in tha place. Rooms bright. None like tha hall. Pair stan’ lights on ceilin’. Desk, chair at tha desk, an comp on tha desk. Jus like the one Casey Gang got took from me. Mom Super point ta ‘nother short table.

“This will be your bed. I hope you find it to your liking.” She say i’ smiling at me. Big think ‘hind them eyes now.

“You mean I get cot like tha Up folk?”

Why I got feel wrong for asking ‘nother question? Null trying ta make Craz Oldie cry. She just was. I’m none gonna let this get beyond me. “Get out your depth, get dead.” That the way things work an look like gettin’ close. Got get handle on it. Old lady sittin on the cot an just lookin at me walkin around. Makin I got what this oth’ small room for. Two doors on i’ an pipe at the top. Some things hanging from tha pipe. Strange hook things. Trying not ta look close at ‘em an get caught starin’. Made over ta tha comp on the desk. Wanted lay hands on i’ an over since I locked on it. Don wan’a giveway that too fas’. Gear rat knows tha’ much abou’ business. Neve give too much ‘way. Is’n old as i’ look. Tap tha switch ta turn i’ on. Got greet by blinkin error lights ‘long the edge. Know this types, local fab. Lights come same order, ‘lways. Pre-boot got stuck. I go in an on it.

Pop tha case secure clip on tha left edge.

Run finger ‘long tha top an add pressure as I twist tha top half counter-clock.

* * *

My hand reached ta my tool belt. Lookin for contact bridgers pass tha anti-tamp sec switch. Hand missed. Got stop. Don feel the tab metal. My hand nev miss.

Look down ta my left hand. Ones supposed to got that tab tool I need. Ain’ got my belt. Come ta me realz I ain’ eve’ in my own clothes. ‘m in somewhere wreck old ship . . .

An someone behind me.

Scream comes, null stoppin’ it. Long an hard an made old lady jump. i’ was tha lady a’hind me. She come up ta see what I’m doing. Got caught in wantin’ ta work on i’ an lost my ‘wareness. Los’ track surroundin’s. Let someone get ‘round behind. Wasn’ her wrong. I broke street rule an rhyme. “Back ta wall or them take all.” So you don get mugged, or creeper on you, or get got by slavers or just ‘cause.

Jump up from tha chair leavin tha begin’ work behind an ran tha three steps ta tha’ smaller room. Duck in an close tha door. Dark. Dark can be good an can be bad. This is good. Got four walls an only one vector in. I know what was ‘round me. I’d knew when I saw i’ that this was my ‘secure’ when things went. A’ways gota have secure. If the Gov come on round up. If gangs got bad war. If druggies got them hands on some new. That when eve’ rat who knows street goes secure. Sometime you go ta secure an find som else there. Some secure ain’ good an you get caught out an’ways. A’ways got have at leas’ one.

This is mine. Now I need ta stable an find out. I tried to get my breath down. Don’ want pass out. Breath hard an you pass out on street. All the CO2 dump from tha scrapworks were at the streets near Bazaar Street. Breath hard an ya pass out sure. Tha’ level tha odds ‘tween tha street rats an tha oldies in fight or chase.

Null thing do but wait till pain come. A’ways does. I got fast breath. Stupid me ta got that way. CO2 hurt ‘ll kill fast some. Tha zone, fog CO2 tha’ collects ‘round tha’ cluster shops an alleys tha’ are all I know.

Pain neve’ comes. Tha’ means I’m pas’ tha zone. Tha’ hits me square an hard. I’m shiverin’ but i’ wasn’ cold. For dark as i’ is, like in tha hall i’ warm dark with red and orange colors too.

“Are you all right, young one?” Oldie ask through tha door.

“Fine, lady!” I got shout back.

“That’s good, dear.” She say back through tha door. “And you can call me Mother Superior whenever you like.”

I don’ remember fallin sleep.

I waked up screamin though.

Tha’ happen twice in week one bein’ here. Sleep in tha closet-room got so warm feels like was somethin’ on top me. Aft’ second time like tha’ I left tha door open some bit, i’ let me see out into tha room too.

“Seeing what way someone could come at you from was good.” ‘s what I thought.

Sometimes I scream so loud i’ wakes all tha Sisters near with me. Maybe i’ woke more othe’s but I don’ leave ta find out. Neve asked. Didn’ care, what I told myself. Can’ say ‘m ‘mbarrassed an didn’ wan’a look weak.

Got clothes now that didn’ itch. Can sleep night an null wake up coughin. Got food 3 times day.

I’m in deep slag.

Tha angle hasn’ come yet. Can’ eve’ see tha angle them Sisters playin’ to. Been ‘while an i’ start ta come clear tha’ Mom Super an ‘em Sisters want me in debt deep so I never get out. “Honor slave” like, cheap an EZ. So debt tha’ work for rest my life won’ pay back my owed.

‘m got ‘most dead screwed.

Mom Super come ‘fore an walk me ta tha meal hall. Theres chairs ‘nough for ‘round hundred in tha meal hall. Sisters only fill ‘bout three fourths it. Mom Super got me sit by her ‘cause that way I wouldn’ be crowd-in with some Sister or come up on like she had on me. Clothes ‘m got eve’ got pocket ‘nough ta snatch food back ta room. Mom Super neve’ caugh’ me. Rat neve’ know when food gone got rare.

Tried count eve’ time I ate food. i’ got more an more. Couldn’ pay that much back. Couldn’ not eat it. Real food hard got mos’ times. Breakfast some toastbread an paste an cheese.

Soup lunch with cracker an’ plate real vegetable cooked in oil. My first real vegs that. I ate food paste sometime on at meal hall but eve’ tha’ was paste with flavor in i’ an came with cracker an cheese. Tha real food got tha kick though. Only fool rat turn down real food. If they gon’ hit me with bill I couldn’ pay, i’ gon’ be on full stomach.

Full stomach. “‘m got soft.” Had say i’ out ta make i’ real.

On street rats only got full stomach on spec days. Like when Gov paste dispenser malfunctioned. Or cargo food crashed near. Couldn’ sell tha goods no more so we rats got eat real tha’ time. Sick for days aft’. Couldn’ handle all that real food.

Now I got real eatin’ eve’ day. Warm of i’ gone out. Or may jus’ didn’ have ta fight chill here. Don’ matter none way. “Loss ya edge an you got dead.” ‘m get soft an got ta fight.

Got my plan to make good too. First got grab up tha bits tools made out some scrap, tha food got hid under tha bed, an all the clothes. Second gotta outbound my room got pas’ them doors an then to tha wall door. Or where I’m lock i’ ta be. Got tools ta get pas’ it. Got find tha control box. Null hard. Simp that. Pop tha door an out.

None need detail figured. ‘s long as got ‘magination I’m gon’ got this. An got my honor back mine aft’. ‘m none gon’ be prisoner an neve’ slave. Let ‘em take my rep an say I don’ pay debts. I’m gon’ be free.

Time make my out.

A’most ‘sleep when I figure late i’ is. Gettin’ up an an got my things out ‘s lot more work than my practice. Opened tha door ta my room null makes sound but tha’ one into tha hall ‘s tricky.

Got i’ jus’ open ‘nough ta squeeze an pull my gear through. Risky ta try an close tha darn door ‘gain. If I wrong, it might wake up tha whole place. Jus’ lef’ i’ part open tha’ way. Gon’ be obvious ta a’one tha’ scan it. I’m be long gone then.

Sneak-move down tha halls. Heart pound’in like hammer. I come up on tha scratch an ding tha’ give ‘way where door come out in tha hall. Scan tha wall ta find control box. Foun’ place where control should be. Near tha floo. All’s in i’ relay module. Like for remote. Ain’ doin’ much ta help ‘less I got tha code or find tha oth’ end tha link.

Tha’s bad news. Could be an’where. Like tha library that I couldn’ go in or outside where’m tryin’ go but can’ get. Got search eve’where an tha’ means ‘m gon’ get caught sure. An I ain’ eve start tha work ta bypass secure tha’ be on it! ‘M deeper in i’ an null way out, lock sure.

I jump ‘cause tha door start open all on ‘s own. Rumbled an rack some an stop ‘bout half open. Blink tha dus’ out eyes tryin ta figure how tha’ happened. Null one outside. Blink mo’ dus an thought abou’ it. Miracle? Maybe, but rats none got tha’ luck.

Out my instinct I turn ‘round.

Mom Super standing three meters ‘way. She got mobiGlas on an up. Prob’y use ta open tha door. Craz Oldie lookin’ right at me.

“I wondered when you would make your first try for the door, young one. I’m actually quite surprised it took so long.” Mom Super voice cut air like glass now. “You look prepared. That’s good. You may even have a plan. Planning and patience. Strong qualities for one so young to have.”

“Wha’ you wan’?” I ask like she some kin’a spook.

“To give you a choice, young one. Choosing is a sacred thing to us; In it we are free. It is obvious you have not felt as free as you truly are.” She say back.

“Wha’ deal you got?” I say more sure ‘m in barter now. Barter ‘m got, solid.

“I mean that you have a choice. You may leave and make the 20 kilometer trek back to the scrap yards and Bazaar and that life which you know, or you may stay and learn what the streets cannot teach you. What they do not want you to know.”

‘s not real deal, that. Thought tha’ get ta here been long but ain’ thought i’ 20 k-meters. I had ‘nough food for day, maybe two. Got caught by null knowing ‘nough. Rookie mis’ake that.

20 k-meters. Trouble still with Boss Dirk in tha Bazaar when got there. An empty stomach.

“None much choice.” I said out aft’ I think i’. Mom Super smile sad a’ me.

“But it is a choice. One I offer you because I am a Sister of this Hall before I am your caretaker.” She say i’ slow like.

‘m none buyin’ it. “You haven’ show me wha’ angle ya playin’. Maybe ya jus’ makin’ me fat an you high dollar slaver an’ all. How ‘m know!”

“You must be free to choose or I am not worthy to be a Sister, let alone the Mother Superior of these many here. We can give you what you need and more if you stay.”

“I know right. Debt ‘s debt.” Eve’ rat know that.

She stop cold. “You think that you are incurring a debt by staying here?”

“Ain’ I? Wha’ I’m suppose think? An I see one an’ ‘m null gon’ jus’ be here an’ . . . null tha’ . . . I won’ be your slave!” Start lookin for way out tha hall ta secure.

I stop cause Mom Super raise her hand. Slow like. Like she do ta quiet tha meal hall ‘fore meal. Hadn’ expected her ta be calm like tha’.

“If I gave a way to repay your debt, would you stay?”

TO BE CONTINUED

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      Calmly, Duane informed the Banu, “If you don’t have security tag, I have to ask you to accompany me to the lobby.”
      “Your tag,” said the Banu nodding to the small purple badge on Duane’s chest. “Does it open the doors for all the laboratories?”
      Duane slipped the baton from its loop and pressed the primer. “Last warning. This area is for authorized personnel only and I will remove you by force if necessary.”
      The Banu simply tilted his head to the side and smiled wider. “Please look at me for the next five seconds. Thank you.”
      Duane realized too late that he had forgotten to see if the Banu was alone.
      “Damn it, Mas. I told you to wait,” Alex said as she peeled the still smoldering stun-glove off her hand and tucked it into her belt. She had to admit, Klanger had done a hell of a job designing the thing. Too bad the glove was destroyed after one use. Worth the money though, to be able drop someone near instantly. Next time she was on Spider she’d definitely need to see if there were any more for sale.
      “You said wait till you found the key. We found the key,” Mas replied, setting the datapod gently on the ground.
      “What if this idiot had comm’d for backup or triggered an alarm?”
      The Banu shrugged. Alex knew it was useless arguing with Mas about things like this. He was one of the best hackers she had ever known, but trying to get him to stick to a plan was about as useless as trying to get a Vanduul to talk out an issue. Anyway, improvisation was the key to being a good data runner. Knowing that Mas was going to do whatever the hell he wanted had just become a standard part of all her plans.
      “I believe he has done both,” Mas said as he rolled the guard onto his back.
      It was then that Alex noticed the faint light blinking under the skin of the guard’s neck. Crap, she thought. A deadswitch. Behring must have wired up their security personnel with them. Something happens to one, the rest would soon be on their way. Time for more improvising.
      “Can you hack it?”
      “I can try,” replied Mas.
      Reaching down, he turned the guard’s head to better expose the neck. Drawing a curved spoon-like blade from the small sheath hidden under his arm, Mas carved the deadswitch out. Alex barely avoided being sprayed by a pulse of blood.
      As Mas connected a small silver connector cable from his pad to the flashing deadswitch beacon that now lay in a puddle on the floor, Alex used her Pyro to cauterize the wound closed. She had never been one to leave a body count behind. Not only was it sloppy and unnecessary, it tended to make the Advos try that much harder to track you down.
      “Mas, instead of deactivating it, can you make it broadcast like the guard is still okay?”
      The Banu nodded and continued to manipulate his pad with his long dexterous fingers.
      Leaving him to work, Alex yanked the tag off the guard’s uniform and used it to access a janitor’s closet she had passed a few paces back. Sure enough, inside was a scrubber. She carried it back just as Mas was finishing.
      “There,” said Mas, retracting the connector. “Healthier than ever.”
      “Then let’s put him back on patrol.” She opened up the scrubber’s rear hatch and Mas dropped the bloodied beacon inside the refuse storage bin. A few presses later and the scrubber was happily cleaning its way down the hall. There was still a good chance that the few seconds the deadswitch had been active would be enough to send a security squad to investigate, but if they were lucky, the scrubber’s movements would be enough to convince anyone monitoring that it had been some kind of glitch. Either way, they needed to hurry.
      The research lab gleamed with an immaculate shine that screamed money and danger. In Alex’s experience, the only reason that anyone ever kept a room this spotless was when a little bit of dirt would be enough to lose a fortune in research or get someone killed by accident. Of course, with the amount she had been promised for pulling this job, she expected nothing less.
      Mas set the datapod down next to a bank of sleek white processors on the far end of the room. If their imposing size wasn’t enough to tell that they were important, the thick coil of cables running into the data hub would have been a dead giveaway. Just about every piece of tech in the place was wired to the computers. He lifted up an access junction and plugged in his silver cable.
      “Any issues?” Alex asked.
      The Banu swiped at his pad. “Only minimal protection. I believe they are counting on the building’s security to prevent access.”
      Never underestimate the overconfidence that comes with owning a big fortress-like building.
      After bypassing the preliminary security, Mas opened up a port and hooked the datapod into place. He settled in to extract the data and began humming Could Have Been You, a sure sign that he was lost in the code.
      Alex strolled around the room rummaging through the work tables that were home to what she guessed were next generation Behring weapons. For the millionth time, she wished she knew exactly what was in the data they were accessing. The name alone wasn’t much to go by — ‘Project Stargazer’ — but the guy who hired them refused to tell them anything more. Alex still had doubts about whether it had been smart to accept his offer. Though, her suspicion was that the job had been less of an offer and more of an order.
      The man, ‘Mr. Grouse,’ contacted them through the usual channels on the amateur ornithologist boards. After all his bonafides checked out, they met at a small cafe on the outskirts of Prime. He’d been easy to pick out thanks to the yellow hat he had promised to wear. Alex had done her normal procedure of arriving early and placing a small pinhole camera on the wall. It was a great way to scout a potential client before meeting and make sure they weren’t sweating too much or hiding an abnormal amount of guns. Neither applied to Grouse, though. He had been as calm as could be. Even more so, his skin had that artificially smooth look, a common side effect from some of the new facial reconfiguration surgical units. Which was surprising because who would choose to make their face that uninteresting? He was like the Human equivalent of elevator music. Even standing across the table from him, Alex had felt her eyes wander away from lack of interest. On second thought, she could see why being aggressively boring might be a good choice considering the work she assumed he did.
      After a few minutes of observing him to make sure everything seemed on the up on up, she noticed him reach into his briefcase and pull out a small hand scanner. With a quick sweep of the cafe, he smiled when he spotted the mounted camera.
      “Alexandria Dougan,” he had said in a calm, even voice. “I am ready to meet whenever you are.”
      Well, that’s a first.
      “And if I am not mistaken, that Banu over there wearing the sunhat is your partner Mas Houlan. Why don’t you have him join us so we can discuss our business together?”
      A few moments later, her and Mas were listening patiently to Grouse explain that he wanted all the records of a research project completely deleted from the Behring Applied Technologies lab. Before she could even begin to protest, he had told them the payment. It was significantly higher than she would have even dared asked for, even on her most brazen of days. It was enough to put her and Mas on easy street and settle a lot of old debts.
      It had made her really nervous.
      That’s why she had decided that they would make copies of the project files before they erased all trace of them from the lab’s record. As the old saying goes, never trust a criminal.
      About halfway through Mas humming The Day Ahead, the alarm went off. That was disconcerting, but not nearly half as much as the giant turrets that lowered from the ceiling. Alex held her breath, but rather than turn and fire on them, the two turrets took aim at the lab’s door.
      It quickly dawned on her why they were still breathing. It wasn’t worth it to risk shooting up all the valuable equipment. The turrets were designed to stop anyone entering or exiting the lab. And stop with extreme prejudice if the large Behring logos on the ballistic guns were anything to go by.
      “How much longer, Mas?” she shouted over the blaring alarm.
      “The files have copied, but I will need some time to finish expunging the records.”
      Okay, thought Alex, let’s see how much ammo these things have.
      Reaching into her satchel, Alex brought out her Insta-Friends decoy. She primed it and slid the puck out into the killbox and covered her ears expectantly. A moment later, the decoy went off and the turrets sprang to life, raining bullets at the artificial targets. Got to love Joker Engineering. Half the time the stupid things didn’t work, but when they did, boy, did they work.
      Eventually, the decoy died and the turrets spun down. The floor was completely chewed through. It looked like they had been designed to allow the rounds to penetrate rather than ricochet into the expensive tech. Right… ricochets. I probably should have thought of that first… Alex would have to remind Mas to make an extra offering to the God of Luck for her.
      She had only brought one additional decoy and she had a feeling that the turrets had more than enough ammo to outlast it. What she needed was a way to force the Insta-Friends to last longer. Scanning the lab, she quickly found what she was looking for: a large half-built laser sat on one of the workbenches connected to an array of batteries. She momentarily considered using one of the lab’s experimental weapons to destroy the turrets but decided that she liked having all her limbs attached too much to mess with an unfinished laser. Instead, she used her Pyro to solder one of the batteries to the decoy and slid the heavy makeshift device into range of the turrets. Once again, the guns sprang to life. It wasn’t until the decoys had begun flickering away, the larger battery finally drained, that she heard the happy clicking whir of empty chambers attempting to fire.
      “I am ready to go,” said Mas, strolling confidently through the still smoldering killbox with the datapod. Alex hurried to catch up.
      They left the lab not a moment too soon. Drawn by the gunfire, a full squad of guards descended upon it just as Mas and Alex managed to round the corner out of view. One of the benefits of robbing a campus as big as Behring’s is that it took a while to move security into position. If she ever went straight, maybe she would get a job as a consultant and earn big credits pointing out all the dumb things companies did with their security systems.
      Leaving the main research wing, the pair weaved their way back through the labyrinthine building to the executive’s office that they had entered through. Alex stopped them at every intersection to ping the path ahead. It would make them stand out on scanners, but it was safer than blindly stumbling into the roaming groups of armed guards.
      Thankfully, when they arrived at the executive’s private hangar, it was unguarded and the Belligerent Duck remained just as they had left it. It was one of those interesting facts of life that powerful peoples’ private hangars are considered so off-limits, security guards assume criminals know not to land there too. That was why private hangars were usually one of the first things Alex looked for when she was casing a building. Plus, they usually had little free water bottles you could stock up with in case you got thirsty during a heist.
      Alex brought up her mobi and unlocked the Mercury. Mas headed up the ramp straight for datastorage to make sure the pod was safely secured, while she made her way to the star runner’s cockpit.
      The hangar doors opened above them and the Duck lifted into the air. The name still made her smile. She had chosen it to infuriate the cocky infoagent she had won the ship from. The pompous prick had the gall to name the ship Razor’s Edge. Now whenever he wanted to buy data off her, he had to comm the Belligerent Duck as a reminder that it didn’t pay to bet against Alex Dougan.
      She eased the throttle forward and the ship’s wide swept-back wings cut easily through Terra’s calm atmosphere. A moment after leaving the hangar, the pleasant Crusader computer voice alerted her that they were being targeted. Sure enough, a Sabre with Behring livery was closing in on her tail. It must have launched when the alarm went off.
      The comms chirped to life as they were hailed. “This is Behring Security. Land immediately or you will be shot down.”
      Great. And it wouldn’t be long before the Terra police joined in. They needed a fast getaway.
      “Mas, weapons, now.”
      When they had first met, Mas had refused to do anything on the ship that didn’t involve hacking and computers claiming that it “was not his purpose.” It had been close to six months before Alex had stumbled upon a solution that had worked — she had hooked up a terminal from a busted simpod into the manned turret’s seat so that Mas could stare at a screen instead of out the window. That was all it took. Now he was a crack shot.
      Mas slid into the weapons terminal, his long legs at the awkward angle all Banu were forced to adopt using Human seats. “How much should I explode them?”
      “None! Knock out their radars and I’ll take care of the rest.”
      Alex pulled hard and swung the Mercury wide giving Mas time to line up the distortion cannons. The Sabre reacted quickly enough to avoid the first and second salvos. Alex rolled at the last second to avoid their return fire. They were running out of time.
      “Get missile lock,” said Mas.
      “Mas, we’re not killing them!”
      “No killing,” the Banu agreed. “Just a distraction.”
      Decelerating till she saw red, Alex brought the ship to bear. After a heartbeat or two had thudded in her chest, she achieved lock and fired two missiles. The Sabre pilot, acting as expected, lit the sky with flares, pulling the missiles off course. Anticipating the brief distraction, Mas fired the turret again. The distortion cannons bit into the Sabre, disrupting its power. There was no way for it to maintain radar and stay flying after a hit like that.
      Maxing out the thrusters for all they were worth, Alex sped the Duck away from Behring’s headquarters. However, rather than angling up to leave the planet, she angled the ship towards the nearby mountainous island range. There, she lowered the ship down into a small alcove cut into the beach beneath a rocky outcropping. Diverting power from the Mercury’s shields and thrusters, Mas booted up their reg-spoof. Now, they would be able to fly around incognito for a little while. Should be fine as long as no one looked too hard or took a shot at them. She hoped they weren’t the only ones in the area flying a Mercury today.
      It was definitely not their cleanest escape. No way they were going to make the rendezvous now, but Grouse was just going to have to deal with the change in plans. Bringing up her mobi, Alex began a message to their network of contacts. Behring had a lot of credits to toss around. You rob someone like that and they usually made it worthwhile to hunt you down. Leaving the system wasn’t going to be enough. It wouldn’t be long before the Advocacy and a whole fleet of bounty hunters were breathing down their neck. If they wanted to get out of this in one piece they were going to need some extra help keeping an eye out. Hopefully a few of the friends her and Mas made over the years would be willing to lend a hand and alert them if they caught wind of the authorities closing in on the Duck.
      Message sent. Now all they needed was somewhere they could hide out till things cooled off.
      “Hey Mas, how would you feel about visiting your old Souli?”
      TO BE CONTINUED
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    • Przez Game Armada
      Every week, designers, engineers and other developers from our five offices around the world answer backer questions submitted on SPECTRUM and voted on by YOU.
      You can submit your questions for consideration in future episodes of Calling All Devs here.
      And for info on becoming a subscriber, go to: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/pledge/subscriptions
      Przeczytaj całość
    • Przez Game Armada
      Wallpaper by Corsair62 Hello everyone,
      The Community Team is at Gamescom this week, representing Star Citizen in Cologne, Germany. We don’t have a booth this time around, but if some of you are making the trip to Cologne, you can join us at one of four Bar Citizen events in the evenings or at the meetup on Friday that’ll include a special town hall Q&A for those in attendance. Find all the details about where we’ll be here.
      But apart from one of the biggest gaming expos, we’ve still got more exciting events this week.
      Our latest concept ship, the RSI Apollo, is still available until August 22nd, so make sure to check out our guardian angel before it’s gone. Celebrating the reveal of our latest medical ship, we held a contest where we wanted to see quotes that you might hear on board an RSI Apollo. The contest is now over and you can find out who’s the new owner of a shiny RSI Apollo Triage or click here, to see all of the contest entries on Twitter. Didn’t win anything this time around? No worries, the next contest is right around the corner!
      And with that, let’s see what else is going on this week:
      Every week on Calling All Devs, designers, engineers, and other developers from our five offices around the world answer backer questions submitted on Spectrum and voted for by YOU. This week we talk about atmospheric planes and aquatic vehicles, “weapon rest” character positions, and the Aaron Halo asteroid field. Watch the full episode here.
      On Tuesday, the Lore Team will publish another detailed piece of fiction, breathing life into the Star Citizen universe. Check out previously published lore posts here.
      Thursday will welcome another episode of Around the Verse where we’ll take a look at the latest Star Citizen news with a project update. We’ve also seen Jared running around in a suit jacket today… but we aren’t sure if that’s an indicator of anything.
      This Friday, we’ll be doing things a bit differently, as we’ll be hosting a special Townhall Q&A at the Brauhaus ohne Namen in Cologne for those attending the event. This means questions can be asked by those who attend, we’ll record the whole show, and upload it on our official YouTube channel at a later time for those who couldn’t make it.
      We’ll see you in the ‘Verse (and Cologne!!!).
      Ulf Kuerschner
      Senior Community Manager



      The Weekly Community Content Schedule
      MONDAY, AUGUST 20TH, 2018
                  Calling All Devs   (https://www.youtube.com/user/RobertsSpaceInd/)
                  RSI Apollo Quote Contest Winner Announcement   
      TUESDAY, AUGUST 21ST, 2018
                  Weekly Lore Post   (https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/spectrum-dispatch)
      WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 22ND, 2018
                  Bar Citizen – Deutzer Brauhaus    
      THURSDAY, AUGUST 23RD, 2018
                  Around the Verse    (https://www.youtube.com/user/RobertsSpaceInd/)
                  Vault Update   
                  Bar Citizen – Brauhaus Ohne Namen    
      FRIDAY, AUGUST 24TH, 2018
                  Reverse the Verse Town Hall Q&A   (https://www.youtube.com/user/RobertsSpaceInd/)
                  Roadmap Update   
                  RSI Newsletter   
                  Bar Citizen – Brauhaus Ohne Namen – Special Townhall Q&A    
      SATURDAY, AUGUST 25TH, 2018
                  Bar Citizen – Hyatt Legends Bar    




      Community MVP: August 20th, 2018
      We are constantly amazed by the contributions made by the Star Citizen community. Whether it’s fan art, a cinematic, a YouTube guide, or even a 3D print of your favorite ship, we love it all! Every week, we select one piece of content submitted to the Community Hub and highlight it in this section. The highlighted content creator will be awarded with an MVP badge on Spectrum and be immortalized in our MVP section of the Hub. Don’t forget to submit your content to our Community Hub for a chance at seeing it here!




      Overview of the Xi’an language for diplomats by TradTeam

      The TradTeam, a unified group of translators of the French-speaking community, released the “Overview of the Xi’an language for diplomats”, a 100-page paper, translated into French. Bien joué!! This document will surely be an inspiration for all French speakers to add Xi’an to their skills.


      Find the document on the Community Hub.


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    • Przez Game Armada
      Join Lead Vehicle Artist Elwin Bachiller Jr as we explore the current progress of all five variants LIVE in engine and have your questions answered LIVE.


      To watch Reverse the Verse LIVE each and every week, tune into http://twitch.tv/starcitizen.
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    • Przez Game Armada
      Hostages on Daymar, extra deadly Scramble Races, and more progress on Hurston’s moons and wilderness in this week’s update.
      Przeczytaj całość
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