Re: The Show Must Go Off

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Herr D

That had been a little too easy. I launched a fuzzier-than-normal bit of code named ESO to scan ALL footage recorded for the shift-week. Objective: odd Enforcer behavior. I sent out a shelled universal fail code on a timer and every droid that had been ‘watching’ us blanked their own memories and sent out a maintenance call. Gibbs was about to prove his worth. I decided I really would see Chugger after all. He had been warned I was coming and was waiting outside with a gun. At least he wasn’t pointing it. “Hey, Chugger. Trouble?”
“I hope not, Q. Are we good?” uhh–
“I believe you’re paid up and then some.” He relaxed a little. But not enough–
“I’ve been asked some questions about you.”
“I didn’t really know what to tell them.” It wasn’t just fear in his eyes. GameFace wasn’t quite able to decipher–anger or guilt?
“Have you faced trouble because of me?”
“Some. I’m not sure how much yet.” Oh how icky.
“Do you wish to partner with me in demanding arbitration?”
He looked completely confused and horrified. “Not at this time.” Eeew. He wasn’t sure what to feel either.
I nodded. “How is your room?” Boy, that threw him.
“My–oh. I like it.” My droid alerts told me that the loiterers in the hallway were all about me.
I pretended not to notice. I leaned closer. “You are an ethical businessman.”
He frowned, still confused, but putting the gun away. “Thank you. I do try.”
“How do you feel about the con game of partnering with a barfly to water down a drink and split the difference of drinks bought for them?” Chugger actually blushed.
“I used to do that,” he said, “I won’t anymore.”
“I need to respect my customers as a respectable businessman should.”
“So that’s not a respectable thing to do?” He startled a bit. Oooh.
“I mean it might get around and I can’t have that. I have to be known as honest. I haven’t always been, but the fact that I’m known NOW as honest means I get better people in. I need better people in because I need the money.”
“You are in debt?”
“Not yet. But if I’m going to buy this place,” he pointed at the bar behind him, “I need to raise a lot more than I’ve been able to.”
He went on explaining that his only vice was women and he only did that to stay sane, ya da yada ya–while ESO reported back to me. At first I thought it was a glitch. Chugger wasn’t an Enforcer, but ESO watched him in and out of a bundling booth. Then I saw it. The rich beltminer woman that paid the bundling booth for a quickie with the surprised Chugger was Elsie. LC4. The Enforcer. No wonder he felt guilty. He hadn’t realized it till pillowtalk was over. Maybe not until he saw her on patrol. He kept his hate for the Enforcers pretty quiet, but . . . Hey! The solution for his guilt could benefit me without being TOO expensive for him.
I leaned closer. “I know you didn’t mean to talk to an Enforcer. Even a cute one.” I gave him a genuine smile.
His eyes widened and his pupils dilated. “H-how did-?”
“Not important, Chugger. What IS important is that I want you to make sure the door swings both ways.” Gotcha.
Still wide-eyed, fear left him at the prospect for revenge. “What would you like, sir?”
I covered my mouth and whispered. “You have a screen under the bar, don’t you?” He grimaced. It might hurt him to bend like that . . .
“Yes, sir.”
“My –ahem– SPONSOR is wanting another ear on the Enforcers. Someone who might also be good to feed some disinformation.”
“They monitor chat, though.”
“They can’t monitor his chatboxes unless he lets them. If your cursor suddenly jumps into a box marked ‘The Shade,’ converse freely. Tell him all. Take his assignments. In exchange he will never involve himself with you.” I paused. “Oh, and Chugger?”
“If you would like a silent partner, or a loan, please come and negotiate with me.”
He smiled. “Yes SIR!” I walked straight to the kiosk, typed three completely meaningless keys in a random order, and walked on.