Stories From A Cyber-Stroud: Eth’s Tale

“We have tried. We have failed. A family is only as strong as those who take part. Even a family has to let go of those who refuse to work with the family. With this symbolic act Eth-il-Liccon is no longer a member of the family. He is free to do as he pleases. He will no longer bring shame upon the rest of us. Aliq-tal-ummar.”

A single flame that was illuminating the room was extinguished with a single, soft breath.

Eth woke up with a start. A momentary panic as he tried to remember where he was; blankets had gotten tangled around his feet. A quick breath, a glance around, kicking the sheets onto the floor Eth realized he was in his bed, in his apartment.

Damn his father. Damn his family. Eth hated that dream. He stood up and headed to the bathroom vowing that today would be the day that he showed them he was worth being a member of the family.

****

Why had the deities cursed him today? If this old herg woman could make up her mind and order her coffee he wouldn’t be running late for a meeting. Why were people always getting in his way, making him late?

****

Are all of the traffic lights working against him? Red light. Red light. He hated the car that he had been given to go to the meeting. Eth was positive that someone was working against him to make sure that he failed this job. Eth was determined to show them. He pushed down on the accelerator and the Big One Mouse slowly accelerated forward deeper into traffic. Another red light! The car threatened to stall at the light. Surrounded by the other ground vehicles, Eth glanced up and wished he had a hover car. Traffic started moving again. Looking at his skin-watch, late.

****

Are you serious? Even the gang-members had better vehicles than him. As he pulled into a parking spot outside NiHo’s Noodle Shack, Eth saw four heavily modified hover bikes obviously owned by Redhand members. Hell, one of them even had the gang’s Redhand logo done in a moving design, waving and dripping blood, on the body of the bike. Didn’t matter he thought as he checked his pockets, they were still part of a gang and he was part of the Organization. He would show them.

A brief spike of panic when he couldn’t find the issta-cred-stick. As he entered the alley behind NiHo’s the panic subsided when he found the cred-stick in a different pocket. The stench was causing him to gag slightly. Water, he hoped, dripped down on his head, cymeans had very sensitive scalps, causing him to flinch. He could hear the rough laughter of four gromathi down the alley. Eth adjusted his jacket, his very expensive mem-ware jacket, and headed towards the meeting.

****

“What?” Eth said in a panic, “I came alone. I don’t hear anything.”

Eth watched the youngest gromathi gang-member advance towards him, serrated knife drawn. Eth put his hands up, hoping to keep the situation under control. He had no idea what set them off, but this deal was going bad fast.

“Just a second, can we make the exchange? There’s nobody here. Nobody came with me and nobody followed me here. I promise,” Eth said rapidly trying to control the panic he was feeling and keep that kid away from him.

Suddenly the gromathi with the augmented arm at the back of the group fell over clutching at his neck. Eth knew he was dead. Eth continued to keep his hands up and back away faster. Without warning Eth’s vision was gone, he felt something wet all over his face and he slipped at the same time ending up on his knees. Please don’t let this be the end.

****

“Looks like you owe me again,” John said with sarcasm to Eth, “Quit sobbing, you can get another suit.”

****

“Who in the hell are you? You’re not militia that’s for sure,” Talia was now standing in front of John her eyes blazing angry, but her voice never got loud, “What did you do, borrow some of your Dad’s old uniform?”

Eth chuckled.

“I..,” John began.

“Don’t bother. I will find out soon enough. You just ruined two months of my work,” Talia seethed with a particular emphasis on my.

“Two..,” John started again.

“I had better not cross paths with you again,” Talia said and the threat was plainly evident.

“But..,” John tried to respond again.

Talia had already turned around and was marching out of the alley. Her hovering sencam pet turned around to look at John and Eth one last time before she rounded the corner.

“You are such a smooth talker,” Eth said sarcastically.

“Shut up Eth,” John snarled, “Now how about you tell me about this deal of yours while we get you cleaned up?

****

Standing next to John’s car after having walked four city blocks, Eth was wiping off his face with a wet nap. A small pile of crumpled wet naps lay around his feet.

“This is your idea of cleaning up?” Eth asked.

“It’s all I had,” John responded, “Now how about you start talking before I find some reason to turn you in. I’m sure I can find something.”

“There’s nothing to tell. I give them the money and they give me the case. Then I take the case back and get my payment.”

“That’s it?”

“No more, no less,” Eth said, “Now what am I going to tell my boss?”

“Tell them the truth. A crazy bounty-hunter showed up looking for Red Twist. He shot up the place, caught you, questioned you and since you don’t know anything let you go,” John said with some sarcasm.

“Are you serious? That’s the story you want me to tell them, that I don’t know nothing,” Eth said while making air quotes around I don’t know nothing.

“Yeah, it’s the truth and pretty easy to confirm with the Red Hands.”

“You do have something there. Why are you after Red Twist?” Eth asked, “You know what never mind the less I know the less I have to deal with. I’ll send you a bill for the suit.”

“You do that,” John said to Eth’s departing back.