Dog Eat Dog

S.K. O'Malley

At nine in the morning, the sky over Tacoma was bright silver and the streets were packed with a layer of slush and snow. Sidewalks were packed shoulder to shoulder with street kids and SINless looking for food and clean snow that could be turned into drinkable water. The Hampton apartment complex sat near the Tacoma-Downtown district border, and through the window on the seventh floor, Ahote laid in a king sized bed, cursing the grey light piercing his thin blinds. He was surrounded carpet colored carpet and wall colored walls that framed an apartment looking apartment. It was a far cry from his old flat on the Tacoma-Puyallup border, with a door and locks that actually looked like they might hold up to intrusion, water he could see through, and 24/7 power. He still had to pay for his own sheets and furniture that could hold up to a troll's tougher epidermis, but hey, little things.

The head pain of waking up and cool draft coming in through the slightly-open window were slightly eased by the beautiful elven woman resting under his meaty arm. Moxi was a voluptuous, athletically built woman who Ahote didn't have to worry about crushing under his weight in bed, and who could look passed his rugged exterior. She had visited him a few times in the week since he'd moved into this new place, he'd taken her out to Bangkok Hut and McKraken Seafood, and they learned they enjoyed the same kinds of shows. The big difference was that she could get up at nine in the morning, meanwhile Ahote might as well have been an actual rock.

Moxi was in her underwear and a t-shirt as she moved to the kitchen counter, putting PhatGulp soda formula into the drink mixer while the soy sculptor loaded her breakfast request. Her head was still shaved and she hadn't bothered putting on a wig, it was a look she admittedly found kind of cool, and it didn't hurt that Ahote was a fan as well. After about ten minutes, the processor produced a few flimsy strips of bacon that looked raw and were about as cold. She filled a plastic cup with the classic flavor PhatGulp and moseyed over to the living room couch, then turned on the morning news.

"Ahote!" she called towards the bedroom. "You want breakfast? Get out here!"

He grumbled back something inaudible as he threw off the covers and rolled out of bed onto the floor, then picked himself up.

"Hold on!" he managed to grunt out. "I'm...I'm coming, let me find my pants."

Ahote shambled around the bedroom, feeling the floor for his vendingwear undergarments and pants, both of which went into the laundry bin, then he reached for a folded pair of each from transparent plastic drawers. He unfolded them in his large hands while ambling out into the living room, partly to show off to Moxi his muscular build, but mostly to get there before she ate all the damn bacon. Moxi looked away from the flatscreen to him pulling up his underwear and smirked. Her eyes trailed down lower than his abdominal muscles.

"My, breakfast and a show?" she said with a light giggle.

"I aim to please," he snarked back while adjusting the elastic band. "Don't eat all the bacon."

He pulled his dull green trousers on over his underpants then took a seat beside Moxi. Slade the Sniper: The Horizon Series played on the flatvid as the two of them knocked back the tangy, flimsy strips of poorly flavored synthetic bacon and thin-syrup soda. It was par for the course for Ahote, although he could see faint looks of disgust on the corporate girl's face. Still, he was comfortable having her there, an arm around her shoulder, and she didn't seem to mind the low end accommodations when she was laying on his chest. Her laying her head on his pecs, eyes on the screen, kept her from noticing that he had nodded off back to sleep.

"Ahote?" she said, her voice sounding...chirpy? "Wake up, dude."

He opened his eyes, shook his head, wondered where that damn chirping was coming from, and saw Moxi was shoving his chest lightly.

"Ahote, you got a call."

Her voice sounded normal again when he focused, and the chirping he realized was his commlink ringing. He reached out over the living room table, fumbling over paper plates and plastic cups for it, only to remember he left it in his nightstand. He sighed, reached for the trodes in the arm compartment of the couch, and put them on to take the call mentally.

"Ahote here. Who's calling?" he thought, sounding as tired in his head as he did in the meat.

"Hello, Barnabas," a familiar masculine voice came. "It's me; dad?"

"What do you want?" he hissed, his tone immediately flooded with bitterness and bile.

"I wanted to talk, that's all. I haven't heard from you in-"

"Bulldrek. You want money?"

"Barney, please-"

"Don't 'Barney' me, Leon. What do you want? I'm busy."

"It's not what I want, son. It's what your grandmother needs."

That gave him pause. Ahote's boiling stomach cooled, sank, and the worst thoughts formed in his mind. He sat forward on the couch and put a hand on the side of his head.

"Why? W-What's wrong with grandma?"

"Corporate bureaucracy, Barney. Apparently her apartment complex was purchased from NeoNET last year, and SpinGlobal upped the rent. She...she needs to pay a bunch of back rent and I know...I know your kind of work tends to come into money easily, and grandma and I can't earn what she needs before she's evicted."

"Whoa, hold on, uh…" he rubbed his temples, Moxi leaned forward with her hands on his shoulders. "How much?"

"Ahote? What's wrong?" she asked.

"One-hundred-thousand dollars, Confederated."

Ahote had to run the conversion in his head, minus the laundering fees for once. That came about to a little over fifty-thousand nuyen, his preferred currency for most deals made on the cheap. UCAS notes were good when he didn't want any trace whatsoever, but most people didn't take hard cash anymore, at least not in the 'respectable' parts of the sprawl. Confederated American dollars were the same way back in Saint Louis, although Pueblo dollars seemed more in-use back home. Still, it was more money than he had ever possessed at one time.

"Right, right...SpinGlobal, you said? They own her complex now?"

"That's right, why?"

"Hm...they might take nuyen. I got some of that coming my way; how long before she gets the boot?"

"A month, I think. They're looking to clean out the invalid residents by new-years."

Ahote nodded, Moxi was still looking concerned.

"Wiz. I uh...I'll call you back when I got it all together. Talk to you seen Leon."

Ahote cut the call and pulled the trodes from his head. That's when he noticed his chest thumping like a roaring sports car engine, his lungs burning, and his skin glistening and wet in places.

"Baby, what's wrong?" she asked, moving her arms in more to hug him from behind.

"I uh...well…" he shook his head. "Hey, your dad got any work?"

"What?"

"George, he said he'd have some work soon."

"Oh, I don't know, why? What's up?"

Ahote stood and stretched.

"I need cash. Now."

Ahote got up quickly, threw on his working clothes, a set of cargo pants, heavy boots, a sleeveless trenchcoat, respirator, and a pair of thick rimmed sunglasses with flashing designs on the lenses to stun whoever looked at them. He rushed down the wet stairs of his apartment complex, tossed his bags of working equipment into the back of his van, and began punching his SIN into a cheap burner meta-link he picked up from Kong Wal Mart on the cheap. The whole way, Moxi was trying to stop him and gain clarification.

"Babe, I need you to tell whoever asks that I'm here," he said while setting the commlink on the coffee table. "No one can think otherwise, alright? I don't want another brush with the Neo-PD."

"Ahote! Stop and tell me what the hell you're doing, will you?" she asked, straining her tone without crossing into anger.

"I'm seeing a man about a job," he said while jogging around and climbing into the driver's seat. "Not really sure what else. I'll call you later, babe."

Moxi was quiet, unsure of how to respond to that, and just shook her head before quickly returning inside before too many people saw her without pants. Ahote's van was large for a van, but cramped for him, even when adjusted for its former ork owners. He hunched over the steering wheel, his elbow forced up against the door and the other going over the center console. He had the GridLink going so he could focus on initiating a neural call.

"Mister Hampton?" he began when the line beeped. "Boss, I-"

"Hello, this is the number of George Hampton. I can't answer my comms right now, although if you leave a message stating your name and number, I'll get back to you as soon as possible," the computerized words were followed by a beep.

Ahote shook his head and cursed under his breath.

"Boss, it's Ahote. I need you to call me as soon as you can," he thought, then ended the call.

The GridGuide carried the van forward at top speed, turning hard and weaving through traffic. The sprawl streets looked like a flowing, dancing tapestry on a loom, woven and unwoven over and over in maddening patterns by the automated traffic managerial system. It took Ahote a while to put his trust in the machine and stop tensing up at every jerky merge and sharp turn. That slowly built trust went right out the window when crossing into Renton, where the cracked roads and occasional pothole went unnoticed by GridGuide, and the van almost rolled when hurtling over a deep cleft. That was when he reached under the steering wheel to flip the manual control override and take control for himself. He knew the way he had to go, the GPS route was more for comfort and assurance than anything else.

It wasn't the easiest task to track down one apartment in Seattle's apartment, although Ahote, with some map assistance on his commlink, managed to do it. In a row of separate project complexes was a circle of orks sitting on steps with bottles of cheap, alcoholic swill that tasted like piss but got people drunk enough to ignore the cold. The stairs were cleared when Ahote passed and crossed through a warped doorway into a hall of plascrete and torn up carpet, choked wall to wall with ork boys and girls in baggy vendingwear clothes, the odd red sports jersey, and many of whom wore kevlar vests with red streaks over their chests. Sheet metal, wooden bits, and layered cardboard sleeves were strapped together as improvised armor against the stinging sleet downpour and ravenous devil rats. The hall crowd tried shuffling out of the way for Ahote, knowing they would be trampled if they didn't, although barely had any room to do so. Ahote turned and shimmied through the moshpit, passing drug deals, weapon trades, prostitutes giving head, addicts riding a high or going cold, infants screaming for parents that weren't there, and mounds of detritus. Not a one of the orks in the hall looked like they had enough meat on their bones to even support themselves, making Ahote look not only massive, but something akin to a mythical giant.

His destination was room seven on the fourth floor, and the whole way up was identical to the main hall, just with varying levels of gang graffiti depending on who owned which stretch of hall. The warped and withered doors long lost their numbers, and each resident gave some kind of unique marker. Ahote was looking for the door with an old Oakland Raiders jersey pinned to the door, with the wood likely stained with the blood of anyone dumb enough to touch it. He shoved his way up to it and tested the thumb-lever lock. His brows went up when he heard the click and door went in a quarter of an inch. He stopped, used his other hand to knock, and spoke into the small opening.

"Stutta P? It's Ahote. You here, chummer?"

"Yeah! C-c-come on in!"

Leaving the front door unlocked? That's a bit weird for Stutta. He was pretty smart, covered a lot of ends, and would never forget something like locking the deadbolt. He shrugged and shoved the door open the rest of the way. Inside he saw the living room round table being used for cards, his cotton couch acting like the king seat at the head of the table. Stutta P was a larger ork gentleman with no hair, baggy jeans, a raiders jersey, and layers of ostentatious bling. Chains on chains, bracelets on bracelets, rings, capped tusks, and golden hoop earrings. Given his assortment of thrift store clothes and cheap credsticks he put in the betting pool, everyone knew his king seat was well earned. To his left were two ork men Ahote didn't recognize, both in a standard set of vendingwear clothes and ratty short dreadlocks. One was shirtless, showing streaks of red ink along his arms. Across from them were two ork women, one of which Ahote recognized as Penelope White, another slender ork in standard vendingwear and long cornrows that met in a hairband before running half-way down her back. She was one of innumerable working girls in the sprawl, and Ahote was one of her favorite clients; he wondered how often she said that. Beside her was a woman in similar dress with long, narrow, neat dreadlocks kept back by a blue bandanna hat. They all held cards around a pile of credsticks, plastic baggies of numerous substances, and silver wrapped soypaste packets.

"Hey omae," Stutta began with a wave. "How's it g-g-g-goin'?"

"'Sup, Ahote?" Penelope followed.

The three he didn't know bounced their chins in a silent greeting before going back to the cards.

"Hey uh...everyone," he began, trying to think of how to pitch his idea to Stutta P. "Hey P, I don't mean to be rude, but you still know Reggie?"

There was a pause that lasted a second longer than what might be seen as socially acceptable, and everyone who knew Stutta P knew to account for it as he carefully formulated his sentences to make up for his speech problem.

"Y-yeah, why?"

"I'm selling. Need the cash."

"Oh, w-w-wanna try winning a hand?"

Ahote shook his head.

"I need more than you guys got, no offense."

"What'chu need?" the shirtless ork asked.

"Several thousand. Family problem."

The crowd around the table nodded in understanding.

"S-s-so what? You th-think Reggie'll have that k-k-k-kinda cash?"

"Nah, but it's a start. I was wondering if you were good for a stick up."

The others smiled, turned to Stutta P, and anticipated what he would have to say.

"Always, Ahot-t-te. B-but I don't think we'll get s-s-s-several thousand from knockin' over StufferShacks and s-s-stealin' people's credsticks."

"It's a start. I'm working on something else, but I haven't heard back from the other guy."

Stutta P looked down and rested his chin on his fist. He let out a deep exhale, ran a finger across his cheek, then looked back up to Ahote.

"Sure th-thing, omae."

Stutta P loaded up his equipment quick, mostly a collection of pistols, a balaclava, kevlar vest, and this hand-cannon roomsweeper. Along with a sports bag of ammunition and some other assorted crap, Stutta P made the trek down the ghetto tower to Ahote's van. Given the size of the seat, Ahote climbed in the back and let Stutta P take the wheel as he ran through his duffel bags in the back to get his equipment ready for anything. The road to Reggie's was packed, mostly with shuffling crowds of orks scavenging for road kill and trash thrown out by passersby on their way to work downtown or in Belleview. They passed a pair of pawns with stun batons running off a pack of SINless while a third pig issued a ticket for a mom who was giving them food. 'Supporting Vegrancy,' was the official charge.

"Hey, uh-uh-uh-Ahot-t-te," he said while keeping his eyes on the road. "S-s-so what's the deal? You owe someone mo-mo-mo-money?"

"Nah, nothin' like that," he said while checking his array of Krime weaponry for grime, jams, or any other signs of damage. "Well, actually I guess it's somethin' like that. It's uh...family problems. Grandma needs some cash to keep her home; price went up when SpinGlobal bought her apartment complex in Saint Louis."

"D-d-drek-k, around Christmas?"

"Yeah, Santa's delivering an eviction notice soon."

Stutta P was quiet for the rest of the short ride over to Reggie's, unsure of how exactly to respond to that news. He pulled into a narrow, drab alleyway and honked to scare away the drunks and vagrants camping there. The plascrete scraped the sides of the van as it squeezed its way down to the square opening, a converging point for the adjacent towers. Fold out chairs and tables were there in the sleet, dead potted plants, and there was even some color thanks to the Crimson Crush tagging. Some orks loitered there, exceptions to the rule of starvation and sickness that surrounded them, each in cheap vendingwear. One ork sat at the central table, clad in jeans and a swamp-camo Ares globetrotter jacket. He turned from a series of holographic panels in front of him to a tall woman next to him. When Ahote climbed out of the back, his eyes went straight to her, a green-skinned woman built like an elf with solid black eyes, no tusks, narrow black deadlocks, vendingwear pants, socks, and crocks with a kevlar vest in place of any kind of bra or shirt, and an old fashioned green army helmet rested on her head. They exchanged words in Or'Zet as Stutta P took the lead.

"Hey Reggie," he began. "G-gl-glad we caught you."

"'Sup, P?" he said with a chin-nod. "Ahote, how you doin'?"

"Not great, Reg'," he applied while moving over to a fold out seat, hoping it wouldn't break under him. "I don't wanna waste your time; Stutta and I were wondering if you were in the market for any drek. We were thinking of knockin' over some small time shops for the scratch, and passing the loot to you."

Reggie chuckled a little.

"Straight to the point," he turned, smiled to the green girl, then looked back at the two. "Why can't all these triflin' hoop trogs just be upfront like that? Yeah chummer, I think I got something. I know a guy, shippin' shark for ESSY, doesn't ask questions where donations come from, feel me?"

Ahote nodded.

"Got it. What percentage are we looking at?"

"Ahot-t-t-te…" Stutta tried to intervene,not wanting to be as blunt.

"Half of the haul if yours, although the guy takes'em cheaper than the market; typical pawn racket bulldrek."

Ahote nodded.

"Right. We'll be back in a bit."

"Whoa, hold-d-d on!"

Ahote raised a brow to his friend.

"What's up?"

"Just...th-th-this whole th-thing. Don't act so…"

"P, I really don't want to be rude, but I want my money more. We need to get straight to the meat, get it?"

"Y-yeah sure, I g-g-guess, but y'know, only f-f-f-f-fools rush in, omae."

"I'm not worried," he shrugged and turned to walk to the van. "Come on, we ain't got time to waste."

Stutta P took the wheel again and the two began cruising out over to the Barrens. They kept their fingers on triggers, waiting for any robbers to step-up and stick'em up. It didn't take long, and Stutta P kneecapped a pair of colorless thugs when they tried to catch them at a red light. Ahote quickly hopped out and rummaged through their pockets for credsticks, crumpled up UCAS dollars, commlinks, and anything else worse fencing. He got back in and Stutta P began circling around. They both scouted out blocks for cars worth hijacking, ones that weren't full of holes or otherwise fubar. Ahote had the idea to rest his Krime Wave on the passenger window to perform a drive-by on a large gaggle of Halloweeners lurking on a street corner outside a pawn shop: two scores for the price of one. Stutta P sighed as Ahote ran through the Halloweners pockets, preferring to loot the pawn shop. As he dragged an authentic, old dwarven table to the back of the van, Stutta P noticed Ahote carrying several of the dead 'weeners there.

"Hey, wh-wha-wh-what the frag are you d-d-doing, Ahote?"

"Oh, I had an idea," he said while tossing an elfish woman in a black corset and purple kinky boots into the back of the van, along with another elfish man and a trio of orks. "I know this guy in Tacoma, back door clinic type, who uh...who could get some use out of these guys. Why let good organs go to waste?"

Stutta P shook his head.

"I g-guess, but...damn, m-m-m-man."

"Come on, get over it," he said, more to himself than P. "Parts is parts and all that, and some of these parts might get us better prices than those cars."

"Yeah, I g-guess. You uh...you s-s-see anything while I was-s-s inside?"

"Nah, just some drek bikes, drek compacts, nothing worse hijacking yet."

"Hmm…" Stutta looked out across the street where there were packs of SINless carefully steering out of his and Ahote's path. "Hey, Ahote, check it," he said while pointing.

Ahote turned to see a narrow alley between two dilapidated, featureless buildings. Within it was what appeared to be a working girl, her pimp, and some suit who wandered too far from Touristville. He looked back to Stutta P who displayed a smirk, then helped him finish moving the table into the back of the van. They pulled a U-turn through the street, battering aside some biker in the process, and hopped back out with handguns drawn as they rushed down the slush-filled aisle. P took the lead with his Roomsweeper, and leveled the barrel at the face of the suit.

"H-h-h-and-d-d-d over-r-r th-th-th…" he tried to yell.

"Wh-what the hell are you-" the suit tried to let out while putting his hands in the air.

Ahote stomped forward, Cavalier Deputy in the suit's nose, and began running his left hand through the guy's pockets.

"What he means to say is: hand over your damn money!"

The hooker seemed stunned, the pimp angry, and he began yelling in Or'Zet at the two. Stutta P turned, tried to calm him down and explain they just wanted the suit, but his reasoning fell on deaf ears. The pimp withdrew a gold and purple plated Colt Agent from the folds of his long coat, although Ahote was burning hot in the cold, adrenaline surging like a firehose, and he was quick enough to turn his barrel and let out a single, large bullet. Brass howls echoed down the alley as the pimp's greymatter met the plascrete wall behind him, then he fell limp into the silvery slush. Ahote stumbled as his knees went weak, and he leaned against the wall, suppressing the urge to throw up, as Stutta P collected the suit's credstick.

The working girl shivered in the cold, clad in barely enough to pass public decency, and crouched down beside Ahote to reach through her pimp's pockets. A smile began to cross her lips as she pulled out a wallet packed with folded UCAS notes, a golden credstick, and an activation fob. Ahote, took deep breaths to ease the pain in his gut, and managed to turn his head, eyes following the girl as she ran down out the opposite end of the alley. She had a key-fob, a smile...it didn't take long for the gears to turn and for Ahote to shuffle after her.

At the curb sat a golden Roll-Royce Phaeton, trimmed with white leopard pattern, purple, cream white, and the interior was leatherwood. The colors and stylings along the body were loud enough to where Ahote began searching for a volume knob. She was at the driver's side door, fumbling with the fob in her numb, frozen fingers. Ahote was quick to fire a shot over her head.

"Back off, lady! Leave the fob and scram," he shouted, lowering the barrel to her.

She jumped as the bullet whistled overhead, throwing her hands up. Ahote could see she wasn't holding the fob anymore, and took off into the fog down the street. He quickly jogged over, ran his fingers through the snow, and found where she dropped the plastic lump.

"Hey...hey Stutta," he called. "I got something for Reg'."

Stutta P jogged out of the aisle in time to catch Ahote keeled over, vomiting into the blackened snow on the street.

"Whoa, Ahote, you a-al-alright, man?"

Ahote nodded while straightening himself out upright.

"Yeah, I'm fine. I need you to take this one; I'd just tear up the interior."

"Sh-sh-sure thing, omae. You sure you're alright?"

"Yeah, yeah I'll be alright. I'll take the van to uh...to the doc I know in Tacoma. Call me when you get to Reggie, alright?" he tried to sound even-toned, ignoring the bitter taste left on his tongue and the feeling that he would be puking again before unloading the meat in the van.

"Sh-sh-sh-sure, you uh...you g-g-get some water into you, alright?" he said while taking the fob from Ahote and getting into the Rolls.

This couldn't be over fast enough. Ahote rumbled down the damaged streets of Redmond, back through Renton, into Tacoma. He couldn't afford to stop off and see how Stutta P was at Reggie's, he had to get the meat to Hampton as fresh as he could. Luckily for him, a machine gun drive-by on some Halloweeners as a part of a looting spree seemed to send a loud and clear 'frag off' message to anyone between them and their way out of the Barrens. Blind ice made controlling the van a little difficult, even with GridGuide assistance, so Ahote preferred manual control of his speed and direction for the sake of not spinning out off the road. He passed around a dozen hunks of twisted metal, too cold to burn despite damaged, sparking batteries, and the driver's bodies resembled snowmen in rags.

Hampton's Holistic Healthcare was packed when Ahote pulled up. He went slow, tried to look inconspicuous in a van riddled with grime stains and bullet marks, and scanned for any doctors he recognized through the lobby windows. There must have been forty or so assholes crammed into the lobby alone, each taking part in the weird tribal medicine preparations that Hampton was marketing. SINers, fragging normal people, and Ahote hated them. He preferred to pull around back into the employee parking, the gate guard knew him and waved him through, and Ahote parked by the back garage.

Hazmat transports went down there to be loaded into large incinerators, pallets of cardboard laid in waiting for use as boxes or impromptu barriers, and there were clearings for meat wagons to come in when in need of repairs. He backed in and drew the attention of workers in hazmat suits. A few approached, hands up in a 'stop' signal.

"Hey, whoa, hold on there," one said as Ahote stepped out. "Buddy, you can't be here; especially without a suit."

"I'm making a delivery. Hampton. Send uh...send the head doc down, he'll know what to do," Ahote responded.

The hazmat guy got nosey and peeked into the back windows of the van, then seemed to perfectly understand what kind of delivery this was. He nodded, waved for the others, and the group began leaving the room as he specifically told Ahote to wait here, and that Hampton's personal service staff will collect the donations. The large troll pulled up an AR window to play Miracle Shooter Deluxe as he stood out in the snow, hoping the cold would do something about the rising sensation of acid in his stomach. He didn't know any of the 'weeners in the back, didn't know if they had it coming, but he tried to think of them as bags of money, or not at all. His attention was pulled to a strange sight, an out of place one. An elvish woman, Oriental, with a long black braid and jade eyes strolled up to him. She was dressed in what appeared to be a black, painted on bodysuit, gloves, and boots beneath a tan trenchcoat. The woman held a hand to the back of the van, as if waiting for him to open the doors. He nodded and did so, allowing her to look over the bodies in the back for roughly a minute.

"Forty-eight-thousand nuyen," she broke their cerebral communication verbally, and with a thick accent that indicated Hong Kong, maybe some regional accent of Japan or Korea.

"Each?" he replied, guessing that seemed a bit low, given that a single kidney could fetch around two-hundred-thousand nuyen.

"Total. These bodies are flawed, damaged, you're lucky to get that much."

A little insulting, he figured, but he didn't care. He needed the money more than he needed his pride. Ahote swallowed his pride, putting it next to the lump of coal in his stomach, and nodded. The woman withdrew a sleek commlink that looked all screen and held it out with the credstick reader port facing him. He withdrew a silver credstick, his primary, and maxed it out, then needed to awkwardly fumble with several generic red, green, purple, and blue sticks to collect the rest. The woman seemed patient with him, her eyes blank and hard to read. He wondered if they were cybernetic like his, although where his were grey in the pupils and lacked capillaries, hers were indistinguishable from real ones, assuming they weren't in the first place. The more he tried to read her face, her body language, the more he felt a chill that the weather couldn't instill in him. He was a little relieved when she waved him away and began moving the bodies onto a fresh hazmat basket cart.

Some nebulous amount of time later, Ahote was tranced out on nanohi on his couch. No word from Stutta P yet beyond confirmation of delivery. Now he was just waiting for Reggie to come through with the payment. Ahote swiped a gold blank from a Stuffer Shack on the way home when grabbing some krill burgers, loaded up all the nuyen he had to his name, and sat shy of sixty-thousand. Moxi came over to see if he was alright, maybe up for a date night, although was happy to lounge with him and partake in some nanohi caps. The overcast sky burnt brown with the setting sun when Reggie's payment went through and transferred to Ahote's golden credstick, now holding a total of ninety-two-thousand-six-hundred. Drek, he thought to himself. He was short. At least, he figured, he had another few days to go fishing in the Barrens again, go hunting for good cars to bounce, but then his thoughts were interrupted by a message from George Hampton.

"Ahote, I got some work for you."

S.K. O'Malley

2018