Snippet: “Out of His Depth”

“We really wanted to know what was on the iPad!”

It’s not the reactions when you walk away and leave your iPad on the brewery’s patio that matter, it’s the ones that come when you return to pick the damned thing up.  Now, look, I’ve done the walk of shame before.  I’ve, errr, done an awful lot of walks of shame to be honest.  But that shame?  I don’t know why, but it’s worse than when you leave someplace you’ve never been with your underwear hanging out of your back pocket…

And, no, as a writer, there ain’t no such thing as “too much information”!  Sorry, mom.

It’s weird, by the way, to go from the free-for-all that is Montana and North Dakota to the…err…far-more-restricted world of the midwest.  I’m currently in western Michigan, and this place is — to put it mildly — absolutely terrified of a totally different virus than we experienced out west.

Anyone who has read this blog for more than a month or two knows that I am no wacky, masks-are-the-Holocaust nutjob, but do we really need to have the people serving breakfast in the hotel dressed in (proverbial) hazmat suits?!

Oh, and by the way, do not order the spicy-chili-garlic tacos if you have to wear a mask soon after.  You have been warned.

I have a friend who was born with the music gene — as soon as she gets to a new town, she finds every single place (whether bar, club or someone’s backyard) that offers live music.  My dad was born with the friendship gene; he is not in a new place for more than five minutes before he has 18 new friends, and a deep understanding of the locals their favorite places.

Me?  I was born with the beer gene.  I don’t research.  I don’t read or Google.  I don’t check Untapp’d or the BA website or anything else.  I just…use the Force.  ObiWan may have felt Alderaan crying out when the Death Star arrived, but I can feel millions of brain cells crying out in terror as the next round arrives, and then are suddenly silenced…

Of course I’m not on the patio of a taproom as I write this!  Would I ever do such a thing?  Writing is too serious for beer!

At any rate, I haven’t done a snippet in a while.  Err, I haven’t done one measured by time — by post, my last one was only a few posts ago.  Oh well, just take the scene and stop asking questions!

Obligatory Snippet Warning — anything I tag as a “snippet” is a first-draft, unedited bit from my longer fiction.  I am currently posting bits and pieces from the second story in my Dockrat trilogy, titled The Silence That Never Comes:

“Out of His Depth

If the clothes were different from the ones Connor had known in his life before Chapman Pen, they still screamed money just as loudly as had the Station’s fashions.  Grays and blues and blacks, those Redux suits were.  All tailored to within an inch of their owners’ lives.  And all, Connor guessed, worth more than any of the prison’s bachu made in a year.

A single glance upwards brought a wave of vertigo.  The huge buildings all leaned close, crowded out the sky.  The clothes might put the Station to shame, but the surroundings, and the feelings they brought, those were very much Dockside: dark, oppressive, and seriously fucked up.

Every single person on that plaza turned to stare at Connor and the little parade of menace he led towards the one tower dominating the plaza.  Fifty stories tall, at least.  The dark grey concrete that so characterized the other buildings was covered on this one with a shiny, black facing.  Marble, Connor guessed.

It was easily the most extravagant building Connor had seen among the increasingly extravagant towers.  The front bore a massive logo, elaborate and aggressively gold against the black exterior.  What the hell was LRC Exploration?

The crowd continued to stare as Connor crossed that plaza.  He was an animal in the zoo, he decided, on display so those too afraid to actually experience life could watch with nothing to threaten their cocoons of privilege and ignorance.

There were many doors on the front of that building, all far bigger than they needed to be.  The lobby inside was easily as tall as Connor’s old res-hold; fifty feet, at least.  The same black marble, worked with gold designs, covered every surface of that interior.  More massive sculptures dotted the lobby, reached almost to the ceiling.

A few seconds to look and Connor could only shake his head.  “Sorry about that penis, boss,” he muttered.  How utterly ridiculous could you make one simple lobby?

“What’s that?” the thin man asked from behind his shoulder.  His voice was curt, and very, very doubting.

Connor stopped and turned with a shrug, “Shou ga nai, dorsun.”  The man had sure as hell never so much as seen a res-hold, let alone learned the subtle nuances of Dockside insults.  “You’re gonna have to take the lead, boss.  I got exactly zero idea what the fuck you want from me.”

There was no way he could more aggressively tell the guy to fuck off without using his fists.  And that would far too likely see his ass handed to him by the ever-present, ever-silent rvac at his shoulder.

The look he received from the thin man was not warm.  It was, Connor decided, the same look he himself gave to a kamo he wasn’t sure was worth the effort to scam.  Or to a pile of kuso he had just stepped in.  There were no more words, however, just a peremptory wave as the man stepped past and moved across the insanely over-dramatic lobby.

The stares from the people milling inside that lobby were even more intense than those from the ones outside.  Connor could feel the eyes follow him as he walked, could feel the sneering curiosity.  Just who was the scruffy bastard in the shitty, third-hand clothes?  What the hell could someone like him be doing in a place like this?

He was wondering the same thing himself.

There were security guards scattered throughout that crowd.  Although the place did not seem to have any formal security stations, one glance was enough to tell Connor that every single person inside that lobby was being subjected to the most detailed of scans.  Implants, biometrics, active scans for weapons and contraband…he had not doubt that the entire gamut was in play.  Just what the hell those scans and sensors would make of an ikiryo like him was worth another laugh, stifled and controlled before it could escape.

There were numerous elevators scattered across the back wall of the massive lobby.  Most were in constant use, with lines of people waiting impatiently to go up while just as many filed off after the descent to take their own places in that lobby.

A pair of elevators, however, saw no traffic whatsoever.  Maybe it was because they went nowhere, Connor thought.  More likely, however, it was because of the guard standing directly in front of them.  No word or sign of warning came from that guard.  Well, no warning beyond the very serious weapon in his arms and the fuck-you expression written clearly on his face.

The change in expression from dour and threatening to obsequious took less than a heartbeat, however, when the thin man stepped up to whisper to him.  Connor was staring intently at the thin man, but still barely noticed the double-twitch of his hands that opened the doors to the last of those elevators.

All implants read muscle twitches and nerve impulses to control their functions.  Most, however, required movements that were very big, and very obvious.  Something able to interpret the small, barely detectable motions the thin man used as they stepped past the guard spoke volumes about the quality — and the expense — of the system inside his body.

There was nothing inside the elevator they entered to indicate what it was.  Nothing.  Even the Station, as Connor remembered, had elevators that looked like, well…elevators.  Inside that particular elevator, however?  This might as well have been in a comfortable little nook in a library.

There wasn’t even a sensation of motion, and that disturbed Connor even more than the decor.  He had no idea how high they rose, and that was not comforting.  It could be the fifth floor to which they took him, and a loud, crowded room of equipment that could quite easily dispose of one Connor-sized body.  Or it could be the thousandth floor, and a visit to a deity that Connor was fairly certain would be less-than-pleased to meet him.

The doors snapped open onto something else entirely, something that could very well have come from the fevered dreams of some Dockside himo with delusions of grandeur.  It was a huge room, filled with big overstuffed couches in delicate pastel colors.  Those couches were carefully divided and segmented by elaborately designed planters and decorative tables.  The walls were lined with vibrant paintings and intricate sculptures.  And, among it all, milled a large crowd of people, talking in small groups of twos and threes.

It would have been funny if it weren’t so…large.  At least twenty feet high, and almost as expansive as the lobby downstairs.  It was one of the stupidest things Connor had ever seen.

“Still going with the overcompensation theme, are we?  Good choice,” Connor observed to the thin man, a derisive grin on his face.

A heavy hand grabbed the back of his neck.  It didn’t shake, that hand, nor move in any way.  It just sat there, heavy and strong, and told its own story of promised threat.  Connor had no doubt that hand would very quickly do very bad things to him if the anorexic svine in front of him offered so much as a wink.

No wink came, however.  The thin man just turned and started across the room.  There was, as far as Connor could tell, only one other door in the whole place; a massive double door that took up far too much of the distant wall.  Shit, maybe there really was some form of god beyond that idiotic door.

That thought did not make Connor any more comfortable.

A secretary sat beside that door, behind a desk that looked larger than the entire unit Connor and Oz had once called home.  No words were spoken.  A look from the thin man and the doors swung open at the woman’s hurried wave.

“Fucking melodramatic,” Connor muttered.

All the snark and cynicism died, however, as soon as he stepped through those doors.

The waiting room may have taken things to new depths of ridiculousness, but the office beyond those doors was an entirely different world.  Even Connor was impressed.

“Holy fuck…” he whispered, trailing off as words failed him.

Even to Connor’s inexperienced eye, the place was tastefully, impressively dramatic.

He could almost hear Oz, Be very, very careful, Spog.  A place like this…this is no chinpira, just looking for respect.

Two entire walls were nothing but glass.  The fiftieth floor was very likely an understatement.  The view over the dense forest of high-rises that formed the heart of Redux’s capital was one of the most impressive things Connor had ever seen.

The office itself — for an office it was — was filled with subtle colors and restrained decor.  Small art pieces sat in discreet nooks, pieces that even Connor could tell were priceless.  A conference table so simple it screamed expensive.  Several couches and chairs situated near the windows to emphasize the view.  And a desk…a desk that very likely cost more than all of the Station.

Connor had once thought Hendricks’ Stationside apartment the epitome of rich and powerful.  Until that moment.

The rvac’s hand returned to the back of Connor’s neck even as the thin man spoke.  “Take a seat, Mr. Spogelse.  My employer will be with you in a few minutes.”

A brief thought of fighting, then, but Connor knew he was going to do whatever the hell those aho wanted, willing or not.

He sat where that hand pushed him, in one of the chairs in front of the desk.  He couldn’t take his eyes from the view beyond that desk.  He wasn’t sure if that view attracted him, or made him want to puke, but he couldn’t look away.  They had to be at least a thousand feet up.

For someone who had grown up amidst Dockside’s crowded holds, it was the most unnerving thing in the universe.

The sound of the doors from behind him, then, and a surge of voices.

Connor didn’t bother to look.  It would be something to help him, or something to kill him.  Either way, he couldn’t look away from that view…from all that space.

Shou ga nai.

“Hello, Mr. Spogelse,  I’ve heard a great deal about you, ” a voice said.  A voice young and strong.  And very, very confident.

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