Chapter 2: Rust District
The Metro rocked back and forth, and I rocked along with it. Electro-beats blasted in my mind, the remixed metallic Excena vocals echoed in my skull, completely drowning out the grinds and grunts and grumbles within my cage.
My cage was suffocatingly cramped, with barely any room to fidget about. Moulded PET seat under my bum, magnesium nanocomposite walls at my back and a dense rack of flesh and fabric front and side. Unable to distract myself with the ads and PSAs usually projected onto the carriage walls, I decided to pry into the lives of the passengers all around me.
I brought up my DataMiner terminal, connected to my external personal computers via VPN and looked at the passenger in front of me. He was wearing a nice cotton hat and a nice leather trench coat. The leather looked genuine. The buttons were ivory. Real ivory. He was reading his OLED datapad, set to private mode. I studied his face. Pale, slightly wrinkled, a little leathery, with thick brows and a beak-like nose. Around his mid-forties, I reckoned. DataMiner spat out his details and about five photos.
Jakob Kimuzawa. Age forty-three. My estimate of his age was close.
I scrolled down the terminal window and looked at the chunk of text that was his history, reconstructed from all the data floating around the Galnet in sites both mainstream and obscure. His father is Achura, his mother is Gallente. His net worth was, at the time, fifty billion Villore sovs (four thousand ISK in egger speak) and rising. An article with five hundred hits, published in an obscure mag ‘Fortuna’, described him as being one of the three hundred richest private citizens of Villore. He had an interview with another magazine, where he described how he made his first hundred million in real estate and the stock market.
I then turned to the passenger to my left. Slashed hooded trench coat of faux leather and nylon. His face was painted ash-white, his nano-dyed eyes glowed dimly ruby-red under the shade of his hood. He was bent over his Impetus Five Zero holo-com, fiddling away on its tap-pad. The holo-com’s pale green projection gave his visage an eerie hue. The DataMiner produced two names: Ramihrdus The Black and Louis Martin. A hundred and twenty, and twenty.
More conflicting description and history turned up. He is a Bleeder Saint, he is a store clerk. He had crucified a thousand eggers, and his boss said that his five-year-old son is better at auditing the store inventory. Ramihrdus described the flavour of infant blood. Underneath that passage, a vid of Louis projectile-vomiting tomato juice played. His most recent poem, posted two weeks ago, had ten billion views and half that number in thumbs up. There were about fifty complaints about his inept customer service this week. Five hours ago, he ripped a Duster’s head clean off his shoulders and sipped from his bleeding stump, while he was being chased by his boss for over five blocks for skipping his shift.
A new update popped up. He had informed his clique that he’s but thirty minutes away to a Sarikusa Spawn concert. Never heard of the band.
My map app blinked. ‘Josefia Square’. My stop.
The exit was far smoother than the entry into the Metro carriage, though it was not any less strenuous. The press of bodies carried me at a pace my stamina can’t keep up with. By the time I managed to veer away from the rush-hour crowd to catch my breath, I was thoroughly drenched. I rubbed the back of my neck and gave my fingers a sniff. Hwan’s perfume had washed off.
I rejoined the crowd and was carried towards the underpass tunnel. The mouth of the tunnel was elliptical, its walls and ceiling were of polish-smooth white fiberglass-plastic. It reminded me of the starship corridors as portrayed in that Void Trekker serial (now available in holovid format). As I progressed through this tunnel, tiled patterns emerged on the smooth fiberglass-plastic surface, subtly and near-imperceptibly at first, but gradually more apparent step after step. By the time I reached mid-point, the walls had become marble, the curved wall entirely covered in 5x5 tiles. The next layer of tiles was subtly larger, and the next one larger still. The curvature of the wall became increasingly angular the further I progressed, and by the time I was but a few steps away from the exit, the tunnel cross-section had become that of an octagon. The cross-section of the exit itself was a square. The marble had turned into concrete.
My virtual tour-guide app (which I kept forgetting to uninstall) was blinking all the way. It was eager to share with me the trivia and history of this tunnel. I ignored it. I had listened to its Excena-voice enough times to remember the details by heart. The ‘Pathway between Worlds’ was the brainchild of the architect Phillips Dubour, master of the schools of Brutalism and Neo-Rocco. The design of the tunnel was meant to ease the commuters’ transit between the world of blocks and angles that is the Harner District and the realm of curves that’s the rest of Libertopolis.
The tour guide didn’t lie about the blocks and angles of Harner District. As soon as I stepped out of this tunnel, I felt like I had gone backward in time. Straight, angular walls and ceilings of bare concrete supported by beams of steel, the architectural hallmarks of the great Garoun Empire’s Industrial Age. The illusion of time travel was broken by the holo-boards plastered over every flat surface.
This is the Josefia Square Transport Hub, the heart of the Harner District, the centre of Libertopolis’ industry.
The flow of flesh-and-fabric from the Metro split away or joined with the flow into or out of the hyperloop railways on the opposite end of the Josefia Square Transport Hub. I followed the current flowing towards the exit pay-gates. Here, the current pooled into a lake of jostling commuters, each competing to leave before their fellows.
It took me five minutes to tap my credit chit against the touch panel of the pay-gate. Green flash, sliding gate opened and I was out. The recycled air on the other side was very sweet.
There were kiosks and peddlers all over the place, hawking their wares in the backdrop of holo-ads. A Vherokhior peddler, basked in the light of an Aliastra retail-clothier holo-ad, walked towards me, carrying strings of rebreathers and coal filters with him. He smiled and brandished a skull-patterned rebreather at my face. I smiled politely and shook my head. I then tapped at the rebreather hanging on my belt. The Vherokhior’s pearly smile faded slightly. He then lifted a string of coal filters and gestured at them, saying something, probably espousing their quality. I kept my smile, raise my palm over my left cheek and shook my head. I looked straight ahead and hurried away towards the gate. I did not turn around to see the look on his face.
Two police guards stood guard in front of a carbonide cuboidal container beyond the shatter-proof glass gate. The usual gear: mili-grade ceramic composite plate, assault rifle and shock baton. There are antennas jutting out of the container. No doubt it contained dormant drones. I strapped on my rebreather, pulled up my hood and blended into the exiting crowd. I should be able to avoid attention like this, just like always.
As I passed the two guards, I glanced sideways at them. The police guards were looking straight at me. ■■■■. I immediately averted eye contact and bobbed my head to non-existent music. Thump, thump, thump. They were coming. By the time I glanced sideways again, one of the police guards had grabbed me by the arm and dragged me out of the crowd.
“What…what did I do?” I feigned exasperation. The other police guard let out a canned laugh. “Buy a lottery ticket, kid. This is your lucky day,” he said, his featureless helmet betrayed no emotion, “You have been chosen for a random security check.”
“Remove your rebreather, show us your ID…” the first police guard ordered. I took out my ID chip-card, established VPN connection and willed up my terminal. “…and submit yourself to iris scan,” the police guard pulled out his scanner. ■■■■. When did they start scanning for biometrics?
I unstrapped my rebreather and exasperated, “Isn’t my identification enough?”
“Rules changed,” he replied. ‘Private connection established,’ flashed my terminal. I urgently willed up a command to copy my biometric data into my Egone.
“Look, Johan,” the other guard pointed at my sling bag. “We’ve to search him.”
‘Copying. Time to completion: 60 seconds’.
Stupid VPN latency! I had to stall them!
“What? There’s nothing suspicious in my bag!” I cried. I pulled up my bag, rattled it and zipped open its mouth. I then slid out my datapad. “Just a datapad, see?”
Johan seized my bag and yanked my head along with it. “Hey! Hey! Ow!” I cried. I fumbled inside my hood and unplugged the wire, letting it slide away from the neck port of my parka. “What’s that? An Egone?” Johan pointed towards my cranium. “Hand that over.”
“Just a second, just a second,” I held out my palm submissively. I pulled down my hood. “My Egone’s modded, see?” I said as I fumbled clumsily for a button at the base of one of the ribs. “Modded. Nanofilament derms, boost sensitivity, see? Just give me a second.”
“Damned hardware hackers wasting everyone’s time,” Johan said monotonously, shaking his head, his gesture at odds with his words. “Hand over your ID.”
I loosely held out my ID chip-card and purposely let it slip off my hand. “■■■■, ■■■■! Sorry!” I bent my knees slightly and held my palms out. I quickly fell on all fours and pawed all over the concrete floor for the ID chip-card.
‘Time to completion: 23 seconds.’
I grabbed the chip-card and shoved it into Johan’s hands. He scanned my ID, infecting his suit firmware with a specially coded Con.Direct worm. For the next two minutes, all queries from his identification software will be redirected from the Federal Registry server to my Egone. If I could just completely download my fabricated biometric data into my Egone before the iris scan, I will be cleared without issue.
‘Time to completion: 17 seconds.’
I willed up my Egone’s control panel and disabled sleep mode. My fingers found the button to retract the nanofilament needles. By the time the needles retracted, Johan had lost his patience. He seized me by the neck and ripped my Egone from my skull and spine, lacerating my skin in the process. I cried out in pain.
Must have struck a nerve. He tossed my Egone at the rough direction of his partner and threw me into the carbonide wall. My spine popped. I screamed. “You are wasting my time, Caldari scum,” he said, lifting his iris scanner. I kicked him in the shin. His partner struck me with his shock baton. My muscles contracted and spasmed. I shrieked. Johan lifted me up by the collar and lowered his scanner towards my left eye. I headbutted the scanner, and he slammed his helmet into my forehead. My vision flashed white. My ears rang. I felt the skin tear. “Hold still, terrorist scum,” Johan jammed his iris scanner into my left eye.
“He’s clean. No IEDs,” Johan’s partner reported. Johan released me. I fell on my knees and coughed. My sling-bag struck me in the head. Johan nodded as he was reading my data displayed in his helmet. “Brairan Lacroix. Born Federation citizen. ID and biometrics matched. Huh.” He looked at me, “Could have sworn he is Caldari, with a chin like that.”
“I’m quarter Civire, you bloody tosser.” I spat. He kicked me in my belly. I thought I felt my sandwich rising. “Get your face fixed if you don’t want any trouble,” Johan menaced, pointing his assault rifle at me. He nudged his assault rifle towards the street. I grumbled as I got up to limp hurriedly away.
The medi-derm stung as I smoothed it over my forehead. The antiseptic and healing agents were doing their work. I pulled up my shirt. Bruises and reddish spots. I stuck all my remaining medi-derms all over my belly.
Projected into my visual and auditory cortices was the vid of myself spazzing out from being struck with a shock baton, just outside the Josefia Square Transport Hub. Can’t hear anything, not with the clamouring or roaring of the passing auto-trailers. I couldn’t really see my face clearly in the vid. Johan’s helmet was in the way, and the shadow of the overhead transport tram and the silently passing hyperloop had further shrouded my features. This vid had twenty billion views in the last fifteen minutes. There were twenty more vids circulating around the Galnet and possibly triple that number still being processed.
The mass-media will have a field day with this. Scope Villore, Villore Daily, Luminaire Times and the hundreds so minor networks will be discussing this furiously for the next three days. Comments columnists will be savaging the LPD throughout the month. There will be Press Releases. The Police Chief will appear in front of the LPD HQ, stand behind the podium and put on a show condemning the act and deriding the offender. He will promise swift decisive action, he will promise to review operational policies, he will offer reparations. Nothing new here. By the end of the month, Johan will turn in his badge. Or maybe not Johan, but some other officer. Probably a real unpopular one they really want to be rid of. Nobody will know for sure. Not without risking their personal safety to dig further in.
If everything turned out well, I will not be getting these reparations. I had been examining the vids, one after the other. My features in all these were obscure. Good. Nothing to ID there. No idea about the surveillance cameras, though. Transport Hubs tend to have at least a hundred of these all over, four at each entrance alone. I hope even those didn’t catch my features clearly as well. I do not intend to risk my neck hacking into the FIO’s surveillance database just to delete a couple surveillance vids.
I pulled down my shirt and zipped up my parka. I lowered my face into the flooded sink and rinsed it thoroughly. I glanced towards the bottom left of my vision.
‘0902 - Villore-IV - LST’
Without bothering to dry my face, I strapped on my rebreather and bolted out of the public loo. I ran past the geometrical statues (supposedly depicting President Josefia Harner pointing up towards the silver sky, surrounded by Minmatar children), towards a Rent-a-Bike kiosk and tapped my credit chit against its touch-pad.
The holo flashed red. I swore as I accessed my online banking app and logged into one of my ten bank accounts to top up my credit chit. Once I set the amount for transfer, I stared at the spots and stripes on the underside of my credit chit. ‘Fund transfer approved,’ read the app. I tapped my credit chit again. The holo flashed green and a bicycle slid out of the ‘Out’ slot. I activated my map app, input the meeting place address and engaged its NavSat overlay. I then folded up the handlebars and snapped the saddle and pedals in place. A green arrow traced a path away from where I am, along with the pavement and towards the street. ‘4.5km’ read the text hovering over the tracer arrow. I tightened my hood and reached out to my back to open up the back flaps of my hood and shoulders. I tapped on the button at the very center of the handlebar. It blinked green and projected ‘0.000km’. The meter was fine.
I got onto the bicycle and sped out of the park and down the road, following the tracer arrow. The wind slipped and tugged at my hood roughly before exiting via the back flaps. I grunted and stretched my neck forward.
I clutched the brakes abruptly, hard. The bicycle screeched along the road. I very nearly collided into auto-trailer ahead. I stomped my foot into the smooth bitumen ground and swore. I started tapping impatiently at the handlebar.
I looked to my right. Pedestrians, bare-headed, hooded or hatted, shuffling back and forth in front of the rows of loft-style shophouses. They were all wearing rebreathers, despite the absence of soot on the walls and the clarity of the air around us. Can’t even smell the smog here.
I recalled that conspiracy theory article I read in a DarkNet board some three months ago. A couple centuries back, ten years after the completion of the Harner District, a bunch of environmentalist nutjobs turned up with facts, figures and charts to prove that the district was over-polluted. All rubbish, really. Very easy to disprove with a little more digging. Pointed out so by the environmental scientists even. Unfortunately for the smartarses, the images of smoke chimneys (actually steam chimneys) all over the holo-boards proved to be very impressionable on the common folk. Most of them were convinced that the district was polluted. The citizens moved out, and two years later, attracted by the cheap rent, leasing fee and job availability, the Minmatar immigrants turned up and made the place their own, pollution be damned.
I could still remember the headlines on that board. “Harner Over-polluted”, “Environmental Disaster”, “Activists Demand Answers”, “Environment Safety Minister Steps Down”, “Mass Exodus out of Harner District”.
The theorists suggested that the disinformation was actually disseminated to the environmentalists by the Federal Government herself. They pointed out that the Harner District had completed development twenty years before the conclusion of the Minmatar Rebellion, and that the district looked more like something out of the Minmatar Republic. Besides, a district mostly populated by Minmatar immigrants just happened to be named after the President who aided their Rebellion and helped established their Republic? They asserted this wasn’t a coincidence.
Frankly, I thought they had a point.
The majority of the pedestrians were Minmatar of various bloodlines. There was this spiky-haired Brutor, imposingly tall and three times broader than I am. Thick arms, covered in tattoos. He was heaving a massive drum under his armpits. The drum-head appeared to be of genuine skin. Three Sebiestors crossed his path from the opposite direction. Helmets and jumpsuits. Carrying heavy work equipment on their right and long faux-leather cases on their left. Looked to be pipe instruments. A robed Amarr stopped for a moment to regard the Minmatar around him and then shook his head. He was then knocked forward as an Intaki youngster brushed past him, zipping along on his hoverboard.
The road trembled as the auto-trailer in front of me rumbled to life. I could feel the heat blasting over my head. I snapped my head forward and pedaled after the auto-trailer. The auto-trailer turned left. I swerved right and overtook him, speeding past the traffic light, its holo green.
The text over the tracer arrow read ‘1km’ when Port Harner came into view. I could hear the waves crashing into ferroconcrete and the departure blare of the hauler-ships. I cycled through the automated gate and stopped before a curb.
This small harbour was empty. No stacked containers to be seen anywhere, no parked vehicles in sight. As I got off the bicycle, I looked to my right and saw that this harbour was segregated by a wall and a length of razor-link fence. The pavement tremored. The hauler-ship blared, its shadow fell onto the harbour as it passed. Waves crashed into the pier in its wake. A moored houseboat rocked and see-sawed with them.
I chained the bicycle to the totems flanking the pier. ‘4.520km’ projected its holo-meter. I grumbled. The fee was already fifty sovs. I looked at the red snarling faces carved into the totems and the dead neon sign hanging over them.
‘Whakra’. Eastern Wind in Brutor-speak.
The ‘Whakra’ ran the length of the pier (about twenty meters long). Its walls, beams and hulls were of carved wood. Its roof of woven straw was supported by a solid carved frame. It looked very out of place in this backdrop of polymer, steel and concrete.
The gangplank creaked and swayed. The lapping of the waters below sent jolts of anxiety up my spine. ‘0916 - Villore-IV - LST’ read the clock. I was terribly late, yet the fear of breaking through the gangplank and plunging into frigid waters below slowed my pace to a creep.
The clock read ‘0918 - Villore-IV - LST’ when I reached the other side. The ‘Whakra’ swayed rhythmically, unsettling me despite the sturdiness of the vessel. I tore off my rebreather took in two gulps of the salty sea air. I then straightened myself despite my trembling knees. I walked along the wall and turned around the corner. Seated on the bench beside the door was a woman with braided dark brown hair and amber eyes. She was still, petrified, her amber eyes locked towards the space elevator far beyond the shore.
She was dressed in what looked to be traditional wear. Capelet, headscarf and woolen dress, all embroidered with tribal patterns. As I was about to cross the threshold, I glimpsed something on her and did a double-take. There’s a headphone over her headscarf. An actual retro headphone, with cups of wood (possibly even having actual neodymium inside) and headband of genuine leather. The headphone was wired to a DAC. An actual DAC, with knobs and digital display and ports and all.
She had a book on her lap. Not an electronic book, the one with the e-ink screen, but a real book, with bound papers and leather covers. What little text I could glimpse was in scripts I couldn’t read. Where did she get all of these? I was looking at a genuine retro-connoisseur! Not a poser who showed off their imitation 8-tracks or turntables, the genuine article!
Also helped that she had a pretty face.
I wanted to say something, but a glance at the clock (‘0919 - Villore-IV - LST’) made me decide otherwise. I felt a pang of regret despite my better judgment. I was hopeful, however. Maybe she will still be here, completely spaced out, still gazing at the space elevator, after I have concluded my meeting with Monsieur Brun.
As soon as I walked through the opened door I was received by the greeter. The greeter was Brutor. Hair in tied-up dreadlocks, tanned darker than most, very tall. Easily half-a-head taller than I am, and I’m 180cm. She was wearing a beige nylon singlet and baggy faded blue trousers. She smiled and bowed slightly. “Table for one?” she asked. I smiled back and replied, “I’m looking for Monsieur Brun.” It took her a second to nod again in acknowledgment. “Follow me, sir,” she showed me in.
I scanned about the common room as I followed her, taking stock of the electronics in the premise. Li-fi bulbs hanging over every bench, lengths of wires crudely nailed to the ceiling, some coming out of the chiseled holes in the walls and beams. The li-fi bulb wires crisscrossed with the bladeless fans’ power lines and converged towards a single half-spherical access point, at the center of the far rightmost ceiling. It was a ChemalTech VLC-500g access point. Breaching the ‘Whakra’s’ server will be trivial. I brought up my breach terminal and glanced through the list. ‘Whakra’. I selected this network and analysed its security.
Stock ChemalTech firewall, stock port encryption. Trivial, alright. I loaded the relevant decryptor software into my breach terminal to begin the hack process. By the time the greeter showed me into the VIP room, I had gained administrator access to the restaurant’s network.
“Good day, Ghostseeker.” ‘Ghostseeker’. My handle. The Monsieur Brun stood up and offered me his hand. He did not seem to be upset of my tardiness. I gave him an embarrassed smile and shook his hand.
The Monsieur Brun is a Sebiestor, quite a bit shorter and punier than I am. Bald, with a goatee. He has a straight-lined tattoo stretching over his eyes and across his forehead. Wore a nylon t-shirt under his high collar jacket. I was expecting a suit.
“I apologise for the harm that had befallen you on the way here.” He sounded sincere. I immediately searched his for any holo-com and datapad and found none. He could be wearing an Egone under that jacket. I ran my Noisefinder app and looked at him. The program started its scan. I reeled back. A piercing ring struck me in the skull. Feeling sick, I fell onto the bench.
“Are you okay?” the Brunner asked. His concern sounded sincere. I inhaled deeply and replied, “Yeah. I’m okay.”
I examined the graph displayed by my Noisefinder app. The readings were unlike anything one would expect from an Egone. Off-the-charts. I immediately had the graph analysed and it spat out the result. The Brunner did not watch the ‘police brutality’ viral-vid on regular brain-chip. The readings were those of capsuleer implants.
I immediately connected to my external computers and brought up my DataMiner terminal. I then locked gaze with him. At the same time, I accessed the surveillance cam firmware. The cam was already turned off. Inside the vid folder, the latest vid file was rapidly increasing in size. Someone else had breached the restaurant server, turned off surveillance and was editing the vid file in real time.
“I was told that you are able to locate any…” he pursed his lips and scrunched up his brow. With some hesitation, he enunciated slowly, “perp with very minimal information.”
The DataMiner terminal spat out his details. Elmund Efelate Egivand, graduated from the Republic Military School, freelancer, currently privateering for the Federal Defense Union. Lots of details, all his posts on the Intergalactic Summit. Nothing that I can trust to reveal who he really is and what he stands for. He had many mentions. I looked at my list of slaved computers. Twenty unused. Should be enough. I immediately engaged the DeepMine module and analysed the mentions of his name. A very massive list of contacts showed up. Most of them do not mention Elmund more than a hundred times. I immediately performed metadata analysis
I focused my attention on the egger in front of me. “If you are talking about finding ‘ghosts’, you had come to the right person, Monsieur Egivand.”
Elmund arched his brow slightly, a show of dull surprise. He lifted his mug, sipped on it, and laid it down on the coaster. “Perhaps your agent hadn’t exaggerated about your abilities.”
“How much were you told?” he asked. “Nothing beyond meeting time and place, I’m afraid,” I replied truthfully. “My agent believes that his partners will be more motivated to do our job if we listen to your problems personally.” Elmund nodded.
DeepMine displayed the analysis result. In the past year, over a hundred of his contacts had gone silent on the Galnet, all at roughly the same time. Their last activities were in Nisuwa. I brought up the search engine to check if there was any mention of anything happening in Nisuwa within that time period. Nothing. I searched for more information on the star system and found that it was registered as a conflict zone as according to the Emergency Militia Act. That explained the absence of news.
“I will now brief you on the job.”
I raised my hand and interjected, “I think I have an idea what your problem is, Monsieur Egivand.” I bent forward and dropped my voice to a hush, “There has been an accident in one of your industrial outposts in Nisuwa, and you suspect a saboteur. You want me to find this saboteur.”
Elmund arched his brow again, more visibly this time. His mouth dropped slightly. He was clearly surprised, and perhaps impressed. “I see why your services are highly recommended,” he said. I felt a glow of pride. “The job won’t be as simple as you think however,” he hardened his expression and lowered his tone, “The saboteur I want you to find for me is a clonejack.”
A clonejack? This won’t be an easy job.
"The clonejack wore the identity of my friend. Sergei Drogodziej.”
I looked at the DataMiner terminal. ‘Sergei Drogodziej’ was in the list of Elmund’s contacts.
“That is his name. I trusted him to assist me in my life’s work and the perp clearly knows that. He wore Drogodziej’s skin, attempted to steal my work and, in the process, cost me the lives of over three hundred employees and the mental well-being of another one hundred and fifty."
“So, about this Drogodziej…” I started. Elmund interjected, “Drogodziej took a holiday on Villore. I suspect this is where he was swapped with a clonejack.” He clasped his hands, “I want you to identify this clonejack and find out who he worked for. Can you do this?”
I wore my business face, “That depends on what clues can you provide”
“I can give you the perp’s clone DNA sequence, what little we can reconstruct, the remains of his cranial implants and his flight details.”
Yeah, maybe I can do this. “Does he have many friends here?” I asked.
Elmund nodded. “Many. Friends and kin both.”
I nodded in reply. “Yeah, I can do this.”
Elmund smiled. Chicken-feet wrinkles showed at the corner of his eyes. “Excellent,” he said. “How do you wish to receive the information and the perp’s remains?”
“I will provide you the coordinate for a drop-point. I will collect from there,” I said. “I will transmit the coordinate through direct connection…”
“My implants do not have that functionality.” Elmund took out his pen from his breast pocket, placed it onto the napkin beside his platter and slid them towards me. After jotting down the coordinate onto the napkin and passing both articles to him, he got up and said to me, “I will have the goods delivered to you within the next two hours. Check your bank account. The deposit transfer should be completed by now.”
The greeter emerged from the door behind me. She was holding a tray with a seafood platter. “Consider this reparation for the injuries you had sustained on the way here.” Elmund got up and went for the door. “I bid you good luck,” he said upon exit.
I stared at the platter laid out in front of me. Shrimps, fishes and mollusks I couldn’t identify. I scanned the tattoo-like marking beside my platter. My browser displayed the restaurant menu. Kuri Hakari. Priced one hundred sovs. I accessed my banking app and logged into my bank accounts. A deposit of twelve million sovs was made into my third account. Less than 1 isk in egger-speak.
I noticed that the vid file size had stopped increasing and had become accessible. It showed a man in a fedo-costume shuffling through the entrance door. The greeter wore a forced smile as she showed him his seat, at the far end of the common room, by the window. He took out a datapad and scanned the markings on his table. The greeter gave him a jug of water. He gulped the whole thing down. He looked through the datapad again. Another jug of water was served to him. He chugged down that jug too. The costume swell.
Nearing the end of the vid’s run-time, the fedo-man shuffled towards the door. He pushed himself through the door and was stuck. He had grown five sizes and had become too big to fit. The greeter laughed. The fedo-man flailed his little arms. The greeter pushed. The fedo-man didn’t budge. He was stuck fast. She turned to the side and shouted. The chef appeared. They kicked the fedo-man’s bum. The fedo-man flailed his little limbs.
There were fifty jugs of water on the fedo-man’s table.
‘1007 - Villore-IV - LST’. I finished my meal and got up to leave. I stood in front of the cashier and produced my credit chit. The greeter smiled and shook her head. “Monsieur Brun has already paid the bill,” she said. I nodded and crossed the threshold. The bench to my left was empty.