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A short story prelude to Against A Rock
By Kalin Ringkvist (Allihence)
The characters twisted and blurred on the datapad as Simiul fought against the wretching to focus on the address. Was he getting closer?
Left was up, he reminded himself… but he wanted to go down. He staggered past the doors, peering painfully to read the numbers above them.
A couple walked past and simiul straightened, avoiding eye contact, straining to put one foot in front of the other and appear natural. The sweat on his brow, redness of his face and trembling in his step betrayed his true state. The couple stared, but walked past.
His stomach threatened to lurch as he came to what he hoped would be the final block, and he stopped to hold himself. But his state didn’t improve.
He pushed onward, finally finding his destination. He rang the bell.
Please, Lord, let someone be here… let this be the right place.
He rested one hand on the door latch and the other on his head. He buzzed again.
A second later the door swung open.
“What’s up?” asked the man. “You don’t look so good, Buddy.”
“I need Vitoc.”
Empty shrug. “Can’t help you… but come in. I’ll call DED and they can get you a synthetic.” He took Simiul by the shoulder and pulled him inside.
“I can’t take police issued synthetic. It only kills the serious symptons. I can’t lead a normal life.” He staggered inside and Viotro caught him and helped him to the couch.
“I don’t know what to tell you…” Viotro said. But he did not head for a comm panel and instead went to another room and returned with a personal weapons scanner and an automated syringe.
Simiul gazed at the syringe as Viotro slowly ran the scanner across Simiul’s body. He felt his muscles relaxing in anticipation.
Sweet Vitoc, once again. The pure kind… straight from Amarria… it had to be.
Viotro confirmed his scan. “No bugs. You check out there.”
Simiul turned his head, exposing his neck as though pleading for the injection.
Viotro leaned forward and placed the syringe to his neck. “I need to run a blood test…” And the syringe snapped…
But Simiul felt no relief.
“I’m sorry, I’ve never seen you before. I need to be sure you’re not with the authorities.” And Viotro turned away and walked toward the other room.
Simiul screamed as he watched the Amarrian’s back, but his voice cut off as his stomach lurched. He leaned forward and wretched, and what miniscule fluid was left in his system was forced upward in painful spasms.
“Let me get the test started,” Viotro said. “Then I’ll get you a bucket.”
“Hellllooooo, Viotro, Baby…” A woman’s voice… from the distance.
Simiul looked up at his Amarrian caretaker as he dabbed a cold cloth on his forehead.
“You home?” came the voice.
“Yeah, I’m here!” Viotro shouted. Simiul cringed and pressed his head into the cushions as though it could block out the piercing sound. His stomach tightened, as it would on a steady rhythm. He curled and leaned forward and Viotro held out the bucket for him as they had many times before.
“More water.” An order rather than a question. Viotro handed him a glass and Simiul drank.
“You won’t believe the day I had today…” The woman’s voice again from the other room. “I think I found something… I talked to my professor and he wouldn’t take me seriously, but I still think it’s something… a security hole, Baby… I think I found a security hole in the system…”
Viotro’s head popped up momentarily, as though forgetting Simiul in her announcement. Then he rolled his eyes and turned back to his patient.
“You probably think I’m crazy…” her voice was in the room now, from the other side of the sofa.
“You found a security breach in what… in capsule integration?”
“I think so… maybe… in the connection with the capsule to the human… it uses a randomized ID, but sometimes that ID needs to change for various reasons, but if you can catch it at the moment the ID changes and insert–” Her head popped over the top of the sofa. A lovely Amarrian girl. “Oh… Hi,” she said, her dark hair hanging above him as he watched her face suddenly change to a look of fear and concern. “You didn’t tell me you had a guest…”
“Yeah, you might wanna check who’s here before you start yelling about security loopholes…” Viotro took the empty glass from Simiul.
“You’re not looking so great there Buddy,” the woman said. “Vitoc?”
Simiul forced himself to nod.
She looked up. “Are you out right now, Honey?”
“Out of what?” Viotro asked. He cocked his head dramatically.
He sighed and rolled his eyes. “Please don’t talk about that in front of people we don’t know…”
“Oh, sorry… I didn’t realize…”
“Fortunately I’m pretty certain this guy’s legit.”
She walked slowly around the couch. “I’m sorry, Babe. I’m still getting used to this life of crime.” She walked toward him and held out her arms.
Viotro chuckled and shook his head as he dropped the glass on the floor. “Dear… your lips are going to get me in a lot of trouble some day…”
She knelt to bring her face to his level, wrapped her arm around his shoulder and kissed him. “Love you, Baby,” she said.
Viotro grinned and shook his head as he put his arms around her. “I love you too, Floreina.”
Simiul gazed at the syringe in Viotro’s hand. “I’m sorry I made you go through all that, Buddy… but your tests checked out…” He knelt in front of the couch. “So how do you intend to pay for this?”
And reality mutated into an ugly mess as Simiul thought about payment… not that he couldn’t pay… but in his current condition, just the thought of trying to remember access codes and monetary transfer proceedures made him want to sink into a pit of nothingness. “Please…” was all he could say.
Viotro grinned. “I’m just kidding.” He leaned forward and Simiul had just enough time to turn his head and expose his neck before the syringe plunged into his skin, the prick barely noticeable against the backdrop of agony.
And almost immediately the world began to clear. Simiul sank backwards into the couch and breathed deeply as the weights seemed to detach from his stomach, allowing him to be human again. The pain ebbed slowly and Simiul followed the sensations and watched the pain disappear, as though the agony had been a part of his soul, an evil that could only be cleansed with the purity of home-grown Amarrian Vitoc. And for a moment he imagined that it were all true… what his master had told him… that evil resides in the souls of Minmatar and should be cleansed… that it must be cleansed…
“Alright, Pal,” Viotro started. “Who are you? Where’d you come from? Who told you about me?”
Simiul sat up and took a deep breath, feeling the air traveling pain-free through his lungs as though it were not an oxygen-nitrogen mix but the embodiment of his desires. Normal people always felt like this… to take a breath and feel just the air rather than a burning intensity that up until a few minutes ago had felt like his entire life.
Now he could think again.
“I want to thank you, Viotro,” Simiul started. “…for saving my life.”
Viotro shrugged. “It’s just business… what I’m really curious about is where you came from and what your story is… I normally don’t take on new customers without solid references… Are slave traders on the lookout for you? Were you released or did you escape?”
And from across the room Viotro’s girlfriend caught his attention as she cocked her head and a quick glare seemed to pass through her eyes, as though passing judgment. Then it was gone, replaced with a warm smile.
Viotro nodded. “Well, congratulations on your new freedom… however, escapees present an added risk for myself… because someone might come looking for you.”
“I can do whatever you need…” Simiul replied. “Whatever precautions you want…”
“I need information about your previous owner, his organization, and an account of how you escaped, as well as the names of the people you used to find me.”
“You need all that just to sell me some Vitoc?”
“I don’t just trust random people off the street. It’s hard being an emancipation supporter in the heart of Amarr territory. By selling you Vitoc, I’m an accomplice to your escape… that involves serious penalties in this part of space…”
“Okay, if you get me a computer interface I can show you my owner’s information portal… and I still have access to the code and plans I used for my escape.”
“Code?” Floreina asked, moving forward in her seat. “You a hacker?”
He nodded. “I spent three years learning to program my master’s systems just so I could be here today.”
“Well, we’ve all got something in common then…” A wicked smile crossed Floreinas lips. “I’d love to pick your brain.”
Viotro was already getting up to fetch a datapad. “Something else you should know, Simiul… that Vitoc I gave you… it wasn’t actually mine.”
“You stole it?” asked Simiul.
“It was already promised to another customer. Now his supply’s a little short… he’ll understand… I couldn’t send you to DED… but his was going to be my last sale for a while. All my regular customers are stocked up and I was planning to take a hiatus for a few months… and focus on school.”
Simiul’s heart sank… at least as much as was possible in the midst of his Vitoc euphoria. “Does that mean there’s nothing you can do for me after this dose… I’m back to square one?”
Viotro leaned against the corner at the end of the hall. “I might be able to figure something out.”
“Are we still going out dancing, Babe?” Floreina asked. “Or do you have business you need to deal with?”
“We’re still going… it looks like this guy’s all fixed up for now…”
Floreina looked at Simiul with a sudden gleam in her eye and pointed a finger. “You wanna come along? Drinks? Dancing?”
Simiul smiled. These two Amarrians were different than the Amarrians he had known… as though they hadn’t noticed he was Minmatar. But still, he shook his head. “I’d love to, but I need to lay low right now, before I can make my way out of Amarrian space. I need to figure out a backstory before I can go out like that.”
“Bah!” Floreina replied with a shrug. “Your owner released you because you and your family served many faithful years. That’s your backstory.”
“People will believe that?”
“Of course. It happens all the time. Just pretend like you’re faithful to the Amarrian Lord and nobody will question it, especially if you’re with us.”
Simiul looked up at Viotro, who was not frowning as Simiul expected, but instead simply shrugged his approval.
“Okay, if you don’t think we’re in danger…”
Floreina smiled widely and met Simiul’s eyes. “No, no. Everything’s going to be fine.”
Read all of Viotro on Kindle
Read all of Viotro on Kindle