(I’m putting together some samples for some folks. For instance, the highly addictive space pilot MMORPG, Eve Online…)
I dropped back into consciousness to the sound of Temple bells, and children running through the streets on a Holy Day. I had to think hard about where I was. I had to remember why my head ached like it had been turned inside out, and why I wasn’t in the sky where I belonged.
I was on Amarr. I knew that because of the bells and the sounds that came through the walls from the city outside.
In another room, I heard the sound of the bonesaw grinding into something.
I remembered. I was at Kevir’s underground boneshop. I had replaced my pilot implant.
Ekatir had shown me this place. She was like me. She was another pilot, another escaped spy for the Caldari Navy, looking for freedom instead of a greater Caldari good.
Kevir’s front door opened. Light poured in from the hall. It hurt my eyes. I held my hand up to block the light. For a moment, I thought it might be Ekatir, come to nurse me back to health and flight.
“Nasty headache?” said a familiar voice. I wasn’t surprised to see Jax, here. I wasn’t happy about it, but I wasn’t surprised.
Jax was a Minmatr scrub, but he wasn’t bad for a Minmatr scrub. He kept his face clean. He didn’t fidget if he sat still for long periods of time. He managed to find his way into respectable underworld establishments, like Kevir’s body shop, without bribing anyone. He and I sat across from each other, each of us waiting for the other to speak.
Jax even managed to speak Caldari without much of an accent. “I see you have chosen a new neural implant? The Caldari Navy would be displeased to see their equipment deposited like waste.”
I snorted. I scratched at the numb spot where the anesthetic tingled next to the metal. “Can’t say I share your concern, Jax. The Caldari Navy has a way of keeping track of their equipment, if you know what I mean. Seems a good enough reason to find a replacement to me.”
Kevir emerged from the bathroom where I had just had my operation. He was covered in blood. For only a moment, I thought it was my blood all over his gloves and apron. Then I remembered what he was doing with my old equipment. Kevir peeled off his glove. He wore a sleeve of blood above clean, white hands. “Hey, Jax, you come for Amir’s body?”
“If you are selling it, still, then I am buying it.”
“Good.” Kevir looked down at me. He smiled. “We can’t call you Amir anymore, can we?”
I shook my head. “I don’t think it matters if I’m still Amir or not, as long as the Caldari equipment thinks Amir is dead. I don’t know what I did to deserve a bug like that, and I don’t care.”
(I knew what I had done. I had been sent here to spy on the Amarr. I was supposed to sell myself into slavery, and the bug was supposed to let the Caldari Navy take control of me when the time came. There was a war. There was always a war. They wanted me to hand my brain over to a war, and accept my own lost soul. I didn’t tell Kevir or Jax that. Only Ekatir knew about that, and she had done the same thing I had. She had gone merc instead of giving her soul to the war.)
Jax shook Kevir’s hand as if they were friends. Something passed between their palms. I couldn’t see what it was.
Kevir went back into the bathroom, where my dead clone and I had traded neural implants.
Jax smiled. “You look like a new man. I never thought such a wonder was possible.”
I stood up slowly. I kept my hand on my chair. “I’m not going to help you with my own dead clone, Jax.”
“I can report you to the Caldari Navy.”
“Go ahead. I’ve got the bugged gear out of my brain. They won’t be able to find me.”
Jax smirked. “You are correct.”
My head swam. The room, a living room in a respectable, middle-class living quarter in the heart of Galatee, spun like a portal. I sat back down.
“While you wait, I wish to propose to you, Amir, a very important and profitable thing to do with your other self. You will be a decoy for a larger operation, and you will be well-paid for your trouble. All you will do is drive your body in a Minmatr frigate to a particular location, and deliver your body to the contact, there. Many others do this. It is a decoy to throw the Intelligence corps off the proper trail.”
I listened. Jax was a Minmatr scrub, but he wasn’t bad for a Minmatr scrub.
I especially didn’t want to know who it was when Jax told me how much I’d be paid for a simple delivery job.
Jax and I stuffed my other body into Kavir’s couch. We put the couch in the back of Jax’ little cart. If any of Kavith’s neighbors looked on, they’d see something perfectly normal. A big, burly Caldari laborer and a scrawny Minmatr slave getting rid of a respectable, middle-class Amarr’s old, unstylish furniture.
I picked up one of the handles of the cart, and Jax got the other. We walked nice and slow down the side roads and alleys to the port.
Jax paid me half up front for my delivery. That was generous of him. I should have known he was going to betray me when he paid me too much in advance.