Before I was released, I had my Y.W.N. identity restore Upclose’s access, claim only to Upclose that he’d replaced the cleaning bot’s cpu with a program to murder during a power surge. And claim he’d caused the power surge. Then I had several hallcams ‘randomly’ catch the cleaning bot’s serial number as I sent it at it’s top pace to the jumper dock and had it roll right under a returning Enforcer patrol ship. Off camera, I had another cleaning bot drop a badly faked serial number plate at the power coil nearest my room.
I had just been released when my StayNeur alarm went off. Upclose had found me coming out of the Enforcer station. There was a badly programmed workaround in the system, probably the efforts of at least five different amateur hackers, to determine which Beltminers were in the Enforcer stations. She’d at least been able to find their work when the Enforcers couldn’t. I centered on her with the hallcams. She stayed back in the crowd as I tried to pretend I didn’t notice anyone staring at the dried blood in my hair, on my face, all over my old comasuit–and she almost jumped out of her skin when the Enforcer alarms went off. At least four full patrols worth of Enforcers scrambled out of the nearby station and played follow-the-jump over pockets of crowd toward the jumper dock. The ship was FINE! I actually had to fight to not double over laughing over the needless panic. Evidence destroyed. The nearest big guy watched the Enforcers pass, turned back to see there were no more, and shoved me against the wall.
“Not him!” shouted Upclose, “Bad idea! Is that you, Crunch?” Oh, boy.
The big guy had closed his hand around my right shoulder close to the neck. He had no netjack, and his implants were hard-wired–no radio frequencies to hack. It was bluff, call him out, or take whatever he chose to give out. I skimmed the local I.D. list. Three guys known as Crunch, two with dark hair so the other one–
“You bleached your hair?” –OUCH. Profile, profile–
“Why not this one?” He wasn’t turning around as she hurried up. –recent burn on forehead–uh?–
“The Enforcers are VERY interested in talking to him–he says he met the Shade.” –Recent fights include Splash Gordon, where he–
“Awwwwh, UPCLOSE! You’re ruining my hustle!” I finally said. His face didn’t change much.
“What?!” she said.
“I was going to be blessed with another win. This guy would have worked me over till he was confident, he would’ve agreed to my terms, and I would’ve killed him. He chickens out you’ll ruin my reputation!“
“I’m sorry, Q–I didn’t know!”
Crunch let go of me very slowly and said very softly, “I’m sorry to spoil your plan for getting into a fight, sir, but I need to stay WELL CLEAR of the Enforcers for a while. If you want, you can tell people that’s why.”
Well, he might have been gullible, but he was a quick thinker. I GameFaced a slow disappointed expression mixed with annoyance. Then a sigh. “From the size of you, I might have made three M-R-E’s.”
He looked vaguely insulted. “I’m worth four. It wouldn’t have been that easy.”
Upclose chimed in, “He offed a pirate ambush. That’s a standard six.”
Crunch gave me an impressed appraisal. “Guns or knives?”
“I put a rock shard the size of my thumb up his nose.” I watched his eyebrows go up. “It was only junk ore anyway.”
He laughed. “You with her?”
“No.” I said. “Maybe,” she said. I squinted at her. “Is that uproar” I pointed after the Enforcers, “about something relevant to me?”
I loved watching her try to come up with the right thing to say. It took a while, too.
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