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Saturday, March 22, 2014

SotSK Part 2

From the diaries of Tago Uriken…

As a child, standing atop the cull and gazing into the distance, my vision of the city was dominated by flourishing skyscrapers encased in crystal glass. I thought it was a beacon, a lighthouse guiding me away from the darkness of my daily life and towards… what? Surely something grand. Something greater than this. A step up from the grinding poverty of the country-side. “Towards what?” was a question I could never answer, and one I didn’t care to ponder in any great detail. I convinced myself that anywhere was better than here, and since there was not here, it must be better. The truth is that anywhere we go is here, and dreams themselves are a drug to cope with the shit-house of one’s life.

When I finally got to the city, my impoverishment only increased further, and my life was reduced to a set of choices. I guess you wouldn’t really call them choices. It was survive or die, and the price of survival often came at the cost of another person’s life. One person ate, another starved. I didn’t care.

Drug use was rampant. This was, after all, a Serpentis-controlled planet.

On the streets we saw the effects of booster manufacture everyday. Not in the way you think, though. For those people, the only drugs available were the defective batches that the Serpentis drug plants discarded wholesale. Son, you did not want to touch those drugs. Imagine taking a booster that has all of the ingredients, but not in the right proportions. Maybe it’s all chemicals and no active ingredient, or maybe it’s the opposite.

My sister took them. Pop, squeeze, rip, there go the drugs into her system. She’s dazed for a moment as the chemicals work into her bloodstream. She starts shaking. Then she starts laughing uncontrollably. Now she’s crying. Now her eyes are bleeding and she passes out. Hours later she wakes up, and all she wants is more.

That’s not a life. I needed to get out of it. And I did. I was clean of drugs and I was ambitious. For the Serpentis, that is all the resume you need. Perhaps you will think that I was wrong to join the very organization that ruined my planet and way of life.

Ruined? This was the opportunity I had been waiting for.

I had joined Serpentis. I had become the snake, but what kind: a constrictor, or a viper?

***

Bucky Bilgewater was almost finished with work. Mopping here, mopping there, always mopping. The food court up here on Platform A was particularly messy today. Little kids running here and there, engaging in all forms of anarchy in order to get their parents’ attention. Meanwhile, the parents sat calmly at their respective tables, reading their news tablets and worrying about how to afford that next luxury item. They spoke quietly with furrowed brows and worried haste.

Bucky listened in:

“Johnny, we promised the kids we’d be taking them to both New Eden’s Magical Land and Dolan’s New Eden Safari. Don’t tell me we can’t pay for it now.”

“Honey, listen, if we want to afford it we may have to rethink our budget on synth blue pills.”

Our budget? You mean my budget. John, don’t you dare touch my blue pills. I told you I need them just to function. The doctor told me so.”

“That doctor is a crank doctor, honey.”

“What did you just say?!”

Bucky turned away and continued working. Magical lands and a safari? Hell, he was just glad to have something warm on my plate in the evenings. But the synths… well, who could blame “honey” for wanting some synths?

After his shift ended and his mop was hung and Bucky had changed into his regular clothes, he started to walk the long road to Platform F. F deck was the lowest level of the station, and the place where the station police rarely traveled.

Bucky was going shopping. There plenty of shops up here on A deck, but there were some, well, specialty shops down on F deck. Shops that had what Bucky wanted, and what Bucky wanted was drugs. Hardcore drugs.

And the best place to score was at Baboon’s down on F deck.

***

Bright orange letters above a lightless entrance said “Baboon’s”. Anyone on the station will tell you the same thing: you will never find a more righteous hive of raves and freebasing. Situated on F deck near the end of one of the station’s long wings, it was the center of all drug trade on the station. Mindflood, soothsayer, crystal eggs, you name it. Baboon’s had anything and everything.

Baboon’s was hopping tonight. Young revelers tripped on blue pill and hit the dance floor. Old men tripped on mindflood and watched the dancers. That crazy movement was trippy. Old women tripped on soothsayer and leched on young men coming up to the bar for drinks. “Let me tell you your fortune, honey.”

In the back was the line. The line.The line to the dealer’s room. Like ants from a colony looking for food, people migrated from the dance floor to the back all night long.

One of these was a shaking man. He scratched his arms and was looking to score his next hit. He waited patiently, and soon enough he was in the front of the line. The door opened and he was ushered in.

The room was mostly dark and empty except for a desk overhung with a small light. In front of the desk was the chair.

“Hey man, what’s your pleasure?”

Across the old rotten desk was a dark man in a torn leather chair. The light in the room was kept low, as if to not attract unwanted attention.

“We’ve got anything you need. Mindflood, crash, crystal eggs. Or maybe you’re looking for a nice woman. I’ve got them too.”

The shaking man reached into his pocket and pulled out some ISK. “Y-y-yeah man, I need that mindflood. The best I c-c-can get!” He looked confidently at his wallet. “I’ve got the cash, man. I’ve got it this time.”

The dealer glanced at the wallet and smiled. “Who’d you scam to get this amount of money?”

“Listen, I just need it. Work’s been tough, man. All these young people thinking they gonna push me out of my job. I gotta get the edge. The Edge! With a capital ‘E’. Gotta stay competitive. So just give it to me.” His knuckles were white while they gripped the sides of the chair, and he said the last words with a sudden anger that startled the dealer.

The dealer took a moment to check himself.

The shaking man’s leg started to bounce up and down and he scratched his arms again. “C’mon man, don’t give me a hard time. I just want my stuff.”

Well, what did it matter where he got the ISK, the dealer thought. He reached into one his drawers and pulled out a vial of mindflood. It was a new shipment he’d received, and the manufacturer had said that it was the shit. We’re talkin’ about more than just seein’ stars and new colors, man. We’re talkin’ nebulas, pulsars. Shiny shit, man. You take a hit, you’re going through other dimension, man, from one multiverse to another, man! I’m an American!

He had thought about keeping it for himself, but for the price he could get from rubes like the one in front of him, better to just sell it. There was always more where it came from.

Holding the vial in his hand, almost letting it drop on the floor to tease the addict, he said, “This stuff will take you to the next level, man.”

The shaking man was excited.

The dealer took the credits and tossed the vial of mindflood across the table. The addict grasped it from the table and clutched it tightly. The look of twisted delight on his face was revolting, even for a long time dealer, and the first thing the shaking man did was unscrew the top and take a deep whiff of the contents.

Ahh, the rush. Let me take you places...

***

Bucky was just entering Baboon’s when he brushed past the shaking man. They exchanged glances for just a moment, and Bucky did a double-take.

No, it couldn’t be… could it?