Original Content Bought and Sold. Chapter 11, Arc 3

MyNameMeansBentNose

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Well, we got to see how the night went from one point of view. Now we get to see it from another...

I swear, this chapter comes in at approx. 5700 words but it sure didn't feel like it to me when I read through it. If I make a 6000+ word chapter I've gone too deep. That's the burnout line :(


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Previous | Beginning | Technology | Wiki | Next
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Chapter 11
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The bed was a bit odd. It was a soft puffy bowl rather than a flat mattress. Still, it was better than the big board that was the shuttle sleeping quarters. She was finally content, comfortable and asleep, snuggling against Mike. Mike’s warmth radiated through her and Stacey was a happy little spoon.

They hadn't even done anything, just gone straight to sleep. Tsury had already inspired a couple marathons. The normal night of rest was fantastic.

And then the discarded harness hanging on the wall started beeping.

At first they tried to ignore it. Stacey came awake and she could hear the rhythm of Mike's breathing change.

Then the tone of the beeping changed to that jagged electronic screeching familiar to alarm clocks back on earth. Dear god she hated Otto for that sound more than anything else.

Mike groaned and turned over, looking away from Stacey and at the two harnesses hanging on their pegs. She also half rose to look at the damned thing.

They didn't wear the harnesses and wireless bands when sleeping. While they were unlikely to be attacked, Otto didn't want to tempt anything. No one was going to argue the point.

Mike sighed with irritation. “It's your harness.”

“Urrrghh,” she groaned. “Fine, I'll get it.”

She crawled off her side of the bed and stumbled around in the half light. Finally reaching the blaring harness she pulled a cord from the collar and plugged it in.

The beeping ceased and she heard Mike sigh at the same moment that she did.

Stacey canceled the false sleeping image the harness would supply anyone trying to spy on them. Technically they weren't supposed to take the slave bands off outside of the owner's personal space. A measure to allow security forces to demand compliance at any time.

“Stacey,” Otto's voice was level, devoid of inflection, as if he was reading an ingredient list. “Sing was beaten when she got back home.”

Stacey couldn't help but swear in response.

“Aw fuck!”

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A little later
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“Otto.”

“Hey Mike.”

“At least you have the common decency to also look like shit,” Mike remarked.

“Heh,” Otto's laugh was bitter and hollow.

Aurula stood behind him, hands folded in front of her. As was often the case her elbows rested on her side pouches.

“Are we sure we don't want to take Tank with us?” Stacey asked again.

“No. Tank wakes up like shit,” Mike told her again. This time he elaborated further. “If we weren't already off the tower and near box town I'd say yeah. Don't wanna fuck with his sleep since we aren't.”

They started walking down the narrow street. Anyone with the wealth to make walking unnecessary really just didn't come off the tower.

“Aren't we gonna be in trouble if something happens?” Stacey pressed.

“The worst case Tank will get a wake up alarm and we'll just have to run,” Otto admitted. “It isn't the worst case I'm expecting though.”

Otto shared a look with Mike. Stacey glanced back and forth between the two men, but they weren't talking. Aurula’s feathers… rippled. From her head to her tail everything rose and shrunk in a wave, then she shook herself out sorta like a dog. Stacey had reasoned that to be Aurula's equivalent of a yawn. Otto didn't even glance at her. Normally he would have stopped to admire.

It took them about a quarter hour to enter box town. The place worked on three rotating shifts. Humans had their time divided between sleep, work and personal time. The station had even adopted a Human’s habitual 24 hour day seeking to use its main labour force efficiently.

Like before they could see sparse activity, maybe a few kids running around. And as before they would occasionally see pairs or trios of men on high vantages watching them as they went.

Otto made a point of nodding at the men. Mike followed suit the second time. Those men nodded back.

“Why do they do that?” Aurula asked Stacey in a whisper.

“It's a guy thing,” she told the bird.

Finally Stacey couldn't hold it in anymore. Keeping her voice low she started asking questions.

“So how exactly are you gonna 'fix’ him?” She asked.

Otto looked sideways at Stacey. Aurula tilted her head towards Otto. Mike just yawned.

“I'm pretty sure I can set Sing as a modified 'owner’,” Otto explained simply. “He will be punished for willing violence and rewarded for good behavior.”

Stacey grimaced. She remembered what her own experience was like, feeling misplaced affection for someone who deserves absolutely none. An echo of that feeling still sat in her gut. Otto looked sideways at her again. He knew.

But she had another question. “What makes you so sure she wants him to be her Dad anymore?”

“Because that's all I wanted.”

That answer sat in her gut like a stone

“My father had favorites, and he had those who… were never good enough. We…” Otto drifted for a moment. He looked away from the group, preventing them from seeing his expression.

“We?” Stacey prompted.

He flinched, then faced forward. “She's a young girl. Unless she's an absolutely remarkable person, I'd bet you anything Sing just wants to be a daddy's girl rather than a punching bag,” he sighed. “After awhile the only thing you can think about is how to not be bad.”

Aurula reached out and grabbed Otto's sleeve. His shoulders loosened ever so slightly.

They stopped at a pretty dense section of the town. Otto didn't hesitate to head for one of the boxes. He grabbed a bar set into the door and slid it sideways. The room was empty.

“The previous tenant passed on a while ago,” Otto whispered. “Keep it down, the walls are thin.”

The room was small. There was a thin bed, a simple three tier shelf and a desk with a lonely chair. Stacey could see an outline on the wall for potential openings to other boxes. A chute extended from the ceiling to the floor, passing through the desk. The desk itself had what looked like a small computer console. The bed was on the right. The desk and shelf against the wall opposite the door. The wall to the left had two small doors, one leading to a tiny shower stall and bathroom. The other led to a tiny almost-kitchen. Next to the door was a small shuttered window.

He plugged the ends of the cords into ports along his collar and everyone plugged their own end into their own little add on processing units on their own collars. Aurula’s couldn’t be seen well under the cover of her feathers. Mike and Stacey had to unplug their wireless bands to connect the collar support.

Suddenly, Stacey had a thought. “So, uhhh, how are we going to manage this?” she asked Otto.

“Hmm?”

“Are we like, doing the shared space thing?”

“Yup,” Otto replied.

That riled Stacey up. That was almost flippant, he knew she had a hard time with the share. “And just how do you think that's going to work?” Stacey asked, her tone irritated.

Otto looked at her. “This time I'm putting you in charge of the share.”

That took the wind out of her sails.

Aurula derailed the conversation for a moment when her feathers rippled again.

“Are you going to be okay Aurula?” Otto asked, leaving Stacey hanging for a moment.

“As long as you don't require me to move and think,” the Leralin replied softly. “I cannot do both at once right now. Leralin can remain half awake all night however, this task is very similar. Do not worry.”

“Okay,” Otto replied with a nod. He then turned his eyes back to Stacey. “I suspect you, Mike and myself all know why you are having a problem with the share Stacey.”

“Oh?” She asked arching an eyebrow at him.

Mike was coming off the end of a yawn of his own and it could be heard in his voice as he started speaking. “Yeah… you don't trust the implant to leave your head alone,” He explained.

Stacey's mouth opened, then closed. That made sense. “So you think putting me in charge will help?”

“If that doesn't then I'm tapped out and you can't watch me in real time, and worse is…” Otto let that hang for a moment

“And worse is…?” Stacey prompted.

“Worse is, then I'll have dragged you out of bed for nothing.”

*Pfft!*” Mike almost laughed out loud.

That brought a wry smile to her face.

“But seriously, if you're running the connection then you have the authority to decide exactly what you're getting.” Otto reassured her. “If you don't like it you can drop the connection in a heartbeat.”

“What will Aurula be doing?”

“She'll be the watch-bird, defending against automatic AI scanning routines.”

“And Mike?”

“The physical watch and quiet reassurance,” Otto told her with a half smile. “I won't be able to keep an eye on what's outside while we're doing this.”

“Okay.”

Mike leaned against the wall next to the door, then pulled it open just a crack to allow him a view of the street. Aurula had pulled out the desk chair and sat sideways on it. Otto pulled a set of heavy cords from his pocket. One end he stretched to Aurula, one to Mike, then one to Stacey. Otto then took a spot next to Stacey on the bed. The hard frame of the bed didn't budge when Otto sat down next to her.

Everyone made sure they were comfortable while Stacey started up the control set. She sent everyone invitation pings and watched as the connections linked up. After taking a deep breath Stacey accepted the share from Mike first.

She found herself flooded with his emotion. He was sending her his love, very literally. Her mouth involuntarily stretched wide in a big smile. It was unfiltered, everything she was receiving. She could see herself mirrored in his eyes, and hear the little sounds he did. She turned to Otto and opened the connection. As his emotions hit her she flinched, then reflexively snapped it closed.

Otto didn’t so much as twitch. He smiled and resent the connection. He turned to Mike. “Help her out there?”

“Sure,” Mike responded, then closed his eyes to remove some of the distraction.. “You can adjust what you’re getting on the fly. Just gotta open the control whatchamacallit.”

“The widget,” Otto filled in.

“Yeah, that,” Mike said. His signal rippled with a small touch of annoyance and a bit of amusement.

She opened it up and found herself with a set of controls for ‘emotion’, ‘sound,’ ‘sight’ and other senses. “Weird,” she commented idly. The ‘widget’ looked like what she’d expect those audio tech guys to use. The thing with all the sliders for different sound levels.

She inspected Otto’s connection and found a widget dedicated for him as well. Aurula also had a connection and widget waiting, although the sleepy girl really was taking a backseat here.

Stacey modified the widget to nullify the emotional share. This time when she opened the connection, it seemed to ‘click, then settled comfortably. Of his own volition he closed off the signal from his sight, hearing and other minor senses. She found herself in a position like sitting over his shoulder in dataspace.

“I’m sorry Stacey, but you’ll need to dial up the the mental connection somewhat to understand.”

With a sigh, Stacey did as he asked, slowly winding it back up.

“When you get used to it you’ll be able to adjust what you perceive on the fly.”

His awareness sat in a void. But she could understand the existence of ‘connections’. Places he could send his awareness, allowing him to explore the local dataspace. She felt his attention shift to her. He was waiting. What was he-? Aurula’s connection waited. Stacey activated Aurula’s connection.

It was quite a bit different. Her vision caught motion before detail. When she turned and focused on Otto, it really was a more precise focus. Stacey linked Aurula together with Otto, but kept Mike to herself. She felt a small thread of affection float between Otto and Aurula. She couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from, but it linked them effectively. It took everything she had not to shut the connection to everyone down as the errant feeling tickled at her. An image and a feeling arrived from Mike and she followed suit.

It was almost like having mental hands, manipulating the widgets. She was able to ‘draw’ a reinforced connection between Otto and Aurula. It directed that feeling of interest and affection away from her and let it reinforce itself between the older man and the bird friend.

This dulled the connection she had to Otto slightly, but she could still see his point of view.

Aurula’s point of view was like that of watching traffic, peeking through a window and watching things moving back and forth in peace. Although the vehicles were more concepts and ‘attention’ given form. The image was that of light increasing in intensity under Aurula’s watchful eye. If the light was too bright, that meant something was looking their way, and Aurula had to distract it.The Leralin’s attention for the task seemed perfectly fine. She could feel the fatigue in blue girl’s body and Stacey was pretty sure she’d be nodding off right about now. The unwillingness to move was palpable and Stacey had to dial that part of the connection down.

She focused on Otto and felt him become aware of that focus. He reached into one of the connection nodes in the space around him. It wasn’t like going, it was more like he was… stretching himself into the connection. He reached further through a second node, then a third. A concept arrived in her head, it tasted like small talk. His impression of the nodes was that of being close together. After a fourth he was confronted with a bunch of smaller sparks. While they all looked mostly the same to her, two of them had marks that turned bright as he looked upon them. One was clearly labeled ‘Sing’. The next was ‘Byung-ho’. That was her father?

A feeling arrived with that focus. Dark, muddy, heavy. She could feel Aurula recoil slightly, and Stacey was tempted to do the same. For some reason though… the negative feeling coming from Otto was easier to digest than the foreign and unwanted sense of affection that belonged between him and Aurula.

It strengthened when he pulled a part of himself into the slave band. It was too small for any appreciable amount of his self to occupy. Instead Otto slowly built a contained space around himself and what she could tell was the sleeping mind of Byung-ho. He wound the space tightly around them and slowly built a very solid connection.

His mind was currently opened wide to her. Anger, determination… fear?

When the space was built, Otto made a connection to Sing. She was asleep at the time, which relieved Otto.

“I spoke to her earlier,” Otto sent to Stacey. Him sending his actual voice to her made her jump. It was different in the space. The tone was deeper, fuller. Was this his inner voice? Now she wanted to hear Mike’s inner voice rather than his speaking voice. Actually this whole share thing might be fun in other-.

“Stacey, you’re leaking,” Mike warned her out loud.

Her face flushing hot, she clamped down on the thought.

Aurula was mildly confused. Otto was annoyed, but keeping a solid grip on it. It was natural for him to be touchy right now though. A light brush of her attention told her Otto hadn’t even noticed. The annoyance was all for the father.

Then he began to place new connections in Byung-ho’s head, a couple of them stretching out to Sing. Every connection he made Stacey could understand the purpose of. One linked to the father’s instinctive understanding. One linked to the punishment routine. One set Sing as an ‘owner’. One corrupted that ownership to make sure she couldn’t just issue Byung-ho orders. One linked to a passive sleep setting that would prevent dreams from enacting the same punishment routines.

Otto was stretching them around like a spiderweb. Some of those modules had multiple connection and control points that he had to manipulate. She could also see points Otto recognized as ‘attack points’. She realized those were spots he could drive parts of the cracking package to free the father. Some registered as ‘safe’. Some as ‘extremely dangerous’.

Then Otto built a false space. Just him in a chair and the father’s perception as a single point. As he did so Otto snaked parts of himself into the implant of the father.

Otto gave the implant a poke to jolt the father awake.

“What is-?” he started. “Hello? Sing? Why is it so dark?”

She realized that Otto was fully hooked into the perception of the father. Everything was filtered through the false avatar Otto had built for the conversation. Otto was… undecided? As soon as he heard the voice Otto’s temper had flared, but he was uncertain how to proceed.

Byung-ho shouted, accusing Otto of being a coward. That one hit a mark. Otto’s gut clenched and his own anger rose.

“What is wrong? Do you have a hole in your head!” he spit at the shadow that was Otto..

Otto’s anger flared up and Stacey gave him a pulse, a warning and a touch of support.

His mood settled into seething mud. “It would be so easy,” Otto said to himself. She understood exactly what Otto meant. He could end Byung-ho in one painful life-ending seizure by undoing a linkage or two on the man’s slave implant. A part of Otto really wanted to do that, despite all the words he’d spent convincing the rest of them Sing needed her father.

Once again Stacey was reminded that Otto’s poker face was extremely strong. She realized that her impression had bled back to Otto as he acknowledged the feeling. It bolstered his self control and Otto began reading the man his rights.

She didn’t need to do anything else. She rode along beside Otto as the man did his best to convince Byung-ho that being a better person was in his own best interest. Otto really could easily see through Byung-ho’s reactions and deflections. The man’s own feelings and his conscious defenses.

She and Otto could both feel the man’s feelings of uselessness, inadequacy and self reinforced grief. Otto felt it directly and she received a ghost of it from Otto as a clinical understanding of what was going on. She was happy he was taking the effort to filter it… but she wanted to see herself what the man was feeling. Stacey gave Otto a nudge and his attention shifted slightly. Otto opened the gate just a touch.

Byung-ho was unwilling and unable to let go of all his anger on his own. Otto shattered that illusion a couple times, only to see Byung-ho immediately try to rebuild the wall out of habit.

“Sing needs her father,” broke that wall more effectively than any of the other words Otto had said. It was clear to Otto that the man’s habits would attempt to rebuild that wall.

Not because he was evil. Not because of his anger.

Because it was safe and familiar to Byung-ho.

That was the one that hit Stacey the hardest.

She almost missed it as Otto grabbed the one thing that worked best and repackaged it. He inserted it into the implant of Byung-ho. The man would hear that message again, many times, although hopefully only when he needed it.

Stacey couldn’t wait to go have a shower.

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Mike
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The link with Otto and Aurula broke first. Stacey didn’t drop the link with Mike until Otto was pulling the plug. He’d kept an eye through the window. While Otto and Stacey did their twitching and sighing. While Stacey’s feelings of disgust and pained understanding leaked back to him.

He’d seen a couple locals settle in to watch. They were curious about a batch of Humans wandering around. Mike couldn’t blame them.

Otto wound up the cables he’d been using. Aurula blinked at him as he finished tucking things away. Stacey stood up and walked over to Mike. He put his arm around her as she leaned into him for a recharge.

Then Aurula reached her arms out to Otto. “Carry me.”

The three of them froze, momentarily stunned.

“I’m really tired,” she repeated. “Carry me.”

Otto glanced back at them with a bemused smile, then walked over to Aurula and gathered her up into a bridal carry. It was made awkward by the wings, but she spread and adjusted them as Otto stepped in, making it clear how to carry her. His arm between her back and her wings, she leaned into his chest and threw an arm over his shoulder.

Otto turned to them a shrugged slightly, but his expression had turned soft. “You’re really light,” he murmed to her.

Her reply was petulant. “Well sorry I’m below average size.”

“That’s a compliment from a Human man,” Stacey said with a laugh. Mike found himself chuckling as well.

“Oh,” was the only reply, coming out muffled as Aurula had nuzzled her beak in close to Otto’s chest.

Mike opened the door and stepped out. He’d seen a couple people sneaking about and made eye contact with at least one guy probably about his age. Stacey followed close behind and Mike held the door as Otto followed afterwards. The older guy was careful as he didn’t have much room to maneuver the tired and cuddly bird through the doorway.

Once Otto was clear Mike pulsed the older man over dataspace, offering a shared space connection. That earned him a surprised look, but Otto accepted. Mike easily shared his perception of being watched.

“Lead the way,” Otto said out loud. Mike nodded and took the lead, Stacey following just behind.

Otto expanded himself into the broad surveillance system, finding several signals following close. They had no clue Otto could see them like this. But there was something else worth seeing. They weren’t far, probably having followed into the box town from a distance, then having a hard time tracking exactly where Otto had taken them.

“Which way should we go?” Mike asked, looking to Otto.

They guys eyes were focused on the distance as he deciphered what he was looking at. Then Otto shook his head. “There’s a weasel… a Kashto? Sniffing along our trail. They’ll be able to follow us.”

“I can see those signals, we’re outnumbered,” Mike warned.

“Yeah, but… Monos can outrun us I bet, and I’m not sure we can get away, there’s two ways into here and they left a group blocking the other…” Otto hesitated for a moment. “But I think it’ll be okay. They’re leaving themselves open.” He was transmitting clear confidence. “Already working on it in fact.”

“Okay, we’ll do it your way,” Mike conceded. Otto had left himself open like a book. Fatigue was in there, but so was confidence. And that confidence was only becoming more solid as Otto delved into the implants the Monos had left open.

Mike looked up at a Human head that had popped up and nodded before continuing on their way.

It wasn’t long until they met the Monos and his entourage. It was the same Monos who’d arrived at the end of the fight in the bar. He still had a massive purple bruise running across his forehead and his eyes were encrusted with mucus.

A couple of his followers had the same mucus in their eyes and a couple others were beat up. One especially limped and twitched as his bruises complained about having to move. There were nine in total including the new Kashto following the path.

“Hrn!” the leader grunted with obvious pleasure. He bared his teeth. “Blundered right into us. I’m pleased I won’t have to wait to get vengeance.”

“I’m sorry Aurula, I’m going to put you down for a moment,” Otto whispered.

“Mmm?” She blinked rapidly while raising her head. “Oh, oh no.”

Mike pulsed Aurula and Stacey, inviting them back into the shared space. A bit nervous about keeping it stable he kept the info share to Stacey tightly controlled. The link was tenuous, but didn’t drop.

Aurula was obviously nervous, her wings slightly open. She was ready to fly despite the close quarters of box town, she wobbled slightly where she stood. Stacey was nervous as well.

Otto stepped forward, but didn’t make it very far.

“On. Your. Knees.” The lead Monos ordered.

Otto twitched, spasmed and went down to a crouch.

“No, on your belly!” the Monos laughed.

Otto spasmed again as he seemed to fight something and went down all the way.

Mike stepped forward and was quickly informed of the problem.

“Stay still!” The Monos ordered, and the slave package accepted the command. Otto had pressed very hard on the point of obeying the slave package if it made an order, so Mike did just that.

“What… what is wrong?” Aurula asked. The translator didn’t carry the same tone of fatigue that probably should have been in her voice.

“Haha!” The Monos laughed. “They have no choice! Their implants think we are security guards!”

The rest of the group laughed as their leader gloated. Aurula took a step backwards in apparent fear.

The bruised Monos stepped forward slowly, enjoying his victory. “This is just the beginning of your punishment for starting a fight with us!” He turned to Mike. “You!” Mike twitched. “Down! On your belly!”

The implant gave him a twinge and he pretended to fight while pulsing Otto a question. A happy confirmation arrived, so Mike dropped to his stomach. He didn’t like it, but if it had been Daniel sitting there in that mood, his brother would have been giggling.

“Hrng!” Otto grunted.

The lead Monos tilted his head, looking down at the man on his belly. He leaned down with comfortable ease. “Is there something you’d like to say Human?”

“Sure,” Otto replied. “Ever heard the term ‘on a silver platter’?”

“On a silver plat-aaaagh!” The Monos recoiled back, hands rising to his head. The rest of the Monos did the same, flailing about.

The Kashto was the worst hit, squirming about on the ground, his mouth foaming up.

Otto had attacked the sensory inputs on their implants.

Otto stood up and Mike followed suit. He walked forward past Otto and kicked the lead Monos in the lower rib cage as it flailed on the ground.

“A spoof security command program!” Otto crowed. “This is the fuckin’ best! I hadn’t even thought of something like this.”

“You-ooooo, you’ll pay Human!” the Monos grunted out. “When they look for me…”

“They won’t find you,” Otto turned, “right Aurula?”

Mike looked at Aurula to see her half way through that full body yawn of hers again. She blinked at the Monos squirming on the ground. “Mmm, yeah, surveillance in the area is still… is still hidden… still obscured.”

Otto walked up and crouched close to the lead Monos. “Didn’t think you’d find a code-setter in this little corner of nowhere, did you?” his voice was menacing. Dark satisfaction radiated through the connection. Mike didn’t let it carry through to Aurula or Stacey. “Unfortunately, you opened yourself right up to me, now I’ve gone and scrambled your senses. You’ll need someone really good to put your brains back where they’re supposed to be.”

“Nnnggghhhrrrrr!”

“If you’d dropped the connection right away you might’ve retained the ability to walk, but now?” Mike couldn’t see Otto’s expression, but the tone of his voice chilled. “Well now, you’re not much use to anyone. Even your memory will be scrambled by the time your friends find you.”

The leaders eyes unfocused, staring aimlessly.

Otto stood up and went back to Aurula who had also crouched. She was on complete autopilot, the whole of her attention on whatever program thing Otto had asked her to look after. “Hey,” Otto said softly. “I'll takeover.”

“Okay,” she replied and immediately began climbing back into Otto's arms.

Mike looked at Stacey as she dropped from the share. She looked up at him, her eyes worried.

The walk back to the Motel was quiet. The locals didn't want to be involved with that.

After a walk that seemed twice as long as the trip out, they arrived at the hotel. Otto stopped at the door, a comfortable Aurula nuzzling close to his chest. “Have a good ni-”

Stacey stopped him by placing a finger on his lips. Mike opened his mouth and started to step forward. “Otto,” she started, her voice sad. “I know you're in a dark place tonight… but you really scared me back there. What you did to those guys… You tore their minds apart...”

Otto looked her in the eyes. He didn't say anything, but his shoulders dropped and his face sagged. He'd been riding high at taking those Monos out. That statement sucked the life out of him.

But Mike realized he agreed, crippling them like that…

Otto glanced to the side, not really looking at anything at all. He looked at Mike, but Mike found himself silent as well. Otto looked back to Stacey, still unable to reply.

He turned around and walked away.

Otto suddenly looked like he had aged 10 years.

-----
Sing
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She met them at the lift, the last stop of the transport capsule. It was mostly the same group she had seen before, but the younger brother who’d snuck her some candy had traded places with the young woman with puffy hair.

She was still surprised to be here. The night before Father had sworn while laying strips across her back that she wouldn’t be playing host to any more outsiders. Instead he’d sent her of with a short, “go earn some credits.”

Father had been strangely reluctant to look at her. She had thought that old voice in the night a figment of her imagination until exactly that moment.

They approached her. The big black Kraltnin and his beige mate. The older of the two brothers who’d tossed her into a crate… a smile crept onto her face when she thought about that. And then the two women, Stacey and… Tsury.

Stacey hurried over, giving Sing a very gentle hug. Did she know? She put her hands on Sing’s shoulders and looked her in the face. “Are you okay?”

She did know. How much did she know? ...Whose voice was it?

Sing didn’t know what to say. Stacey seemed to realize it right away.

“Okay then, we’re hungry for breakfast,” Stacey said with a smile. “Know any good spots? We’re paying!”

Sing nodded her head automatically and eagerly. “Of course, there are two to choose from…”

Perhaps things would be better.

The meal was not bad. Bread cooked into toast with something that was ‘nearly butter’. Meat cut into ‘bacon strips’ and cooked to a chewy texture. Green pods that snapped with tasty juice with each bite. And next to it was a special sauce called ‘Katsup’ that she’d only heard about before. It was delicious on the pods. She hadn’t known the name of any of these things, but Mike and Stacey happily told her all about it.

Sing had never been able to eat here before.

The cooks were one of the few Humans onboard who weren’t ‘asian’. A black skinned woman with a warm friendly attitude. And she was loud, but it was okay. She had earned the right to open a simple ‘eatery’ at the edge of the Human quarters for the sake of ‘emotional encouragement’. ‘Mumma Rosa,’ was an old lady with grey hair now, but her little restaurant, ‘New Home Cooking’ had done as she had explained.

They had enjoyed visiting the other place, ‘Lucky Second’ the previous day, but seemed happier here. Sing had eaten at the other one before… although that didn’t mean she appreciated them inviting her to the previous restaurant it any less.

The Humans were given a small allowance of personal credits. They could use it to explore the catalogue and see other interesting places, listen to strange music and witness new creatures. But many Humans saved up the small allowance to visit this restaurant on the edge of the colony for a taste of Human food instead of the auto dispensed meal balls or paste that was supplied every day.

The outside Humans enjoyed themselves immensely as they ate. Stacey hadn’t said anything weird since the careful hug, but ‘Mike’ and ‘Tsury’ were also acting weird. Sing was pretty sure they somehow knew why she had all those bruises.

They finished up in time, paying their credits and leaving the place.

“We’re going to be leaving soon,” Stacey said after they exited New Home Cooking. She crouched in front of Sing and pulled out a strangely tangled piece of red cloth. It had a shiny clip attached at the base. Stacey reached out and placed it in Sing’s hair.

“I wish we could take you with us,” Stacey sighed.

Her heart twinged and her stomach clenched. To leave this place…!

But Sing shook her head. “I want to leave too… but…” she looked down at the ground, the smooth cut rock of the planetoid at her feet was familiar. The only ground she’d ever known. Sing looked up at Stacey. “I don’t want to leave my Dad,” Even if he had…

He was the only person who looked after her, even if he had gone bad after...

Stacey’s smile was a bit sad. “He said you might feel that way.”

That brought her eyes up. She tilted her head at the woman. “He?”

“Otto… had a talk with your father,” Stacey explained. “Things should be better now’.”

Stacey’s face blurred all of a sudden. She glanced at the others standing there, Mike, Tsury, the Kraltnin. Then she realized what was happening. “Oh,” Sing said in quiet surprise as she brought her hands up to her eyes. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to-”

Stacey hugged her again. “Shhhh, it’s okay, you can cry.”

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End Chapter
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levsco

New member
#2
Otto was on auto pilot there for the attack.... he let his controls lax too much.

Also, in this verse; not being at least code aware seems deadly. I am surprised there isn't a huge market for basic 'firewall' programs to make sure connections are legit.
 

levsco

New member
#4
But i run IT at my company... I have made it very difficult for them to bork their own gear. I mean stupidity always finds a way but firewalls, anti-virus, network sniffing, etc. Much of that can be autonomous. I mean in lieu of better options I would run my gear in an autistic mode with all 'wireless' off and only use it when i had to.
 

MyNameMeansBentNose

Active member
Writer
#5
But i run IT at my company... I have made it very difficult for them to bork their own gear. I mean stupidity always finds a way but firewalls, anti-virus, network sniffing, etc. Much of that can be autonomous. I mean in lieu of better options I would run my gear in an autistic mode with all 'wireless' off and only use it when i had to.
You are right. These guys were in fact supposed to be disconnected, but they wanted to use their shiny toy to flaunt their superiority. There will soon be an angry IT guy fuming that the Captain doesn't enforce the rules like he should, but that's for later.

Meanwhile, Otto got his hand on the whole reason the Monos thought they would be perfectly fine being connected.
 
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