Space Rat Saturdays – A Shrewd Negotiation

A distorted image of an empty bar.
160720-bar-empty-after-hours.jpg by r. nial bradshaw. https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8513/28373565902_eb7f73313c_b.jpg

A handoff with a new connection is always tense, but there is a script to these arrangements. To the point it would be boring if it didn’t always come with a chance of murder, life imprisonment, or destitution.

First, you pick the place. Gives you the chance to scope things out and make sure your gut isn’t telling you to get. Gives you a chance to screw your head right with a couple toxics before kicking things off. He knows that of course, if he’s smart, but you’re also the one who has his cargo. So that’s his own burden to worry about. You stand your ground on that shit.

Second, you buy him a toxic when he arrives, even though he’s the one who is about to pay you. No, it doesn’t make any fucking sense and yes, it does slow down the whole process. But trading requires gestures masquerading as friendliness for most crooks of most species. So you stick to the script.

Third, you exchange pleasantries neither of you have interest in, while avoiding discussion of the cargo you’re carrying until he finishes his first toxic. At which point he will either buy you a drink or toast to your new partnership or some other overly-friendly gesture so it feels less obvious the only reason you know one another is your mutual distaste for the Confederacy.

Fourth, after this exhausting bit of social interaction, then and only then can you finally even mention the actual purpose of your meeting. Keep the actual subject matter vague. No specific credits per unit, no descriptions of cargo, no discussion of planets of origin. If he fucks up and breaks this rule, make sure he knows that you noticed, but don’t accuse him of anything yet. If he fucks up again, tell him you’re leaving but let him talk you back. If he fucks up a final time, stash the goods and lay low while finding a new connection.

Fifth, he bitches about something in order to try and lower the price. You argue back and demand what you’re owed. It could be delays, it could be damage to merchandise, it could be discomfort from Con activity, so long as it’s your fault. Any crook who doesn’t at least try to rip you off at least once is probably not a crook. So don’t trust them.

Sixth, a pissing match of some sort is required in order to display your ability to hurt him and his business before he will pay what he promised. A small display of violence to preview a much bigger violence he doesn’t want goes a long way. Make it big, make it flashy, but keep it controlled. Papa was fond of triggering a small amount of plastic explosives within their eyesight, but I’m more partial to flipping a table or smashing a glass as it requires less prep work. But this is the part where you actually have some freedom to get creative and improvise.

Finally, he agrees to the terms you had already established, perhaps even more if step six was especially impressive and you’re lucky. You have your robots tug the cargo where he wants it, and he gives you the credits on an encrypted drive. You give the toxtender an incredibly generous tip and thank them for their discretion. Everybody walks away happy.

This new connection is a Sapien man named Anthony Gates, and we’re about halfway through Step Five already. He’s young, loud, and definitely way too confident in himself and his bored looking avian bodyguard, whose colorful plumage looks uncomfortable in a tailored suit. This next part might actually be fun.

“Look man, I don’t want excuses! I want my fucking product delivered on time or otherwise I lose money which means you lose more money.” He slams his third drink onto the bar, causing snores of the old man sleeping in the corner to pause for effect.

That’s as good a cue as any.

I grab the back of his head with my left hand and he reacts by reaching into the right side of his jacket. He then resists having his face smashed into the bar, so I allow him to fling his body backward by letting my arm go limp while I kick his barstool with the heel of my right foot instead. He falls flat onto his back and while the wind is knocked out of him, his pistol scattering sadly across the hard floor.

I belt out an overly friendly laugh and say, “Whoa, careful there friend, we haven’t had that much to drink!”

The toxtender glares at us. The bodyguard is off his seat. But I’m already extending a friendly hand to his client, whose red face glares up at me as I keep mine resolutely, frustratingly pleasant. Eventually he accepts my hand and his defeat. I guess this one is a fast learner.

Jackie’s on the way with the tugboat. I made enough credits to pay for half my return circuit to Remidian IV. He’s got enough product to make back three times what he just paid me. And the toxtender has enough money to quit and work somewhere else if they’ve finally had enough dealing with toxed assholes. Everybody walks away happy.

Space Rat Saturdays – A Shrewd Negotiation
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Fallout Fridays – Sixty Feet Under

A scientist named Enrico is addressing three "Gen 1" synths, warning them to keep power consumption to a minimum. The three synths and scientist stand in a bright white room in front of a door labelled "Robotics".
A scientist named Enrico is addressing three “Gen 1” synths, warning them to keep power consumption to a minimum. The three synths and scientist stand in a bright white room in front of a door labelled “Robotics”.

January 5rd, 2278

Every day I ask the old man when I can leave, and every day he tells me to relax and get to know his “family” better. It sickens me. These are the people who kidnapped my son. Murdered my husband. And then had the gall to raise him as their own. These are the people who made him into their image of “Mankind Redefined”.

He’s not my son. He’s their son. The Institute.

I’ll never get another chance to raise a child. No more hopes of first steps, first words, first day in school. Nate will never get a chance to teach him how to swim. I’ll never teach him how to read. He’ll never know his cousins or his aunts or grandparents. He’s gone.

A bald man with a gray mustache, Justin, stands before a room filled with monitors showing recordings both inside and outside The Institute. He says he's going to have to keep a "closer eye on me" for the near future.
A bald man with a gray mustache, Justin, stands before a room filled with monitors showing recordings both inside and outside The Institute. He says he’s going to have to keep a “closer eye on me” for the near future.

They have surveillance everywhere in this place. And when I met with the acting director of Synth Retention this week he didn’t make a secret about it. Hell he even told me I was going to be monitored even more heavily, the moment I met him. Looking at the monitors, it’s obvious they’ve been watching my every move since I woke up. There are cameras watching the Vault. Watching the museum at Concord. Watching Diamond City. Watching Sanctuary. These people have never known a life without scrutiny, so why should they think anyone else deserves one?

Two women engineers are examining a "Gen 2" synth. A woman in yellow, standing, is complaining loudly about how the phase out of older synths can't come quick enough. A woman in white appears to be fixing something behind the synth's left knee.
Two women engineers are examining a “Gen 2” synth. A woman in yellow, standing, is complaining loudly about how the phase out of older synths can’t come quick enough. A woman in white appears to be fixing something behind the synth’s left knee.

But I’ve also been watching them. On the surface they are very clean, very pleasant, very polite, very advanced. But with the smallest degree of inconvenience they lash out at those beneath them. Either those of lower rank or the synths they’ve created. In fact they are constantly threatening the synths around here. No wonder the ones who gain free will try to escape this place.

Right now I can hear a man screaming outside my door.

“You call this floor clean?! Maybe you need a memory wipe and reprogramming. Although at this point it may be more useful to scrap you for parts.”

“My apologies, sir. I will recalibrate my receptors and disinfect the floor to your liking.”

A balding man in a lab coat berates a "Gen 2" synth in front of a water fountain. The hallway is all white, clean, and illuminated, but the man continues to yell at the synth for dust on the floor.
A balding man in a lab coat berates a “Gen 2” synth in front of a water fountain. The hallway is all white, clean, and illuminated, but the man continues to yell at the synth for dust on the floor.

I peeked through the door. I haven’t seen any open violence here just yet, but I can feel it bubbling below the surface. It reminds me of living with my father, or Kellogg’s memories with his dad, or some terrible clusterfuck of the two. Waiting for the explosion is always worse than the act itself.

Right now I’m doing everything I can to remember my training as a counselor, although I specialized in development rather than trauma. I can feel the crushing weight of hypervigilance in my bones. It’s somehow stronger than even out navigating the Wastes. At least there conflict happens quickly, in the open, and resolves with finality. Usually in less than a minute.

Here, my jaw aches from holding my tongue in every incessant social interaction. My joints creak from restraining my reactions to angry words from men with power. My heart wavers from the unreasonable demands of the constant flow of epinephrine.

Of course, knowing that intellectually doesn’t really do me many favors. I ran out of Daytripper and cigarettes two days ago. My knuckles are bruised and scraped from reacting to small sounds in my sleep. I tried drinking until I passed out last night, but that finished off the last of my vodka.

I should be working on how to escape from this place, but I’ve also had a hard time getting motivated for much of anything. Finding Shawn has been my sole motivation since I escaped from the Vault. So now…what exactly is there?

Do I go back to my home, where there’s an overzealous militia eager to make me their General? Do I stay here, where “Father” wants me take over for the dirty work Kellogg can’t do anymore? Do I work for the Railroad as Codename: Professor and work to destroy the only thing keeping a shred of my past alive anymore? Go work with Nick solving mysteries, knowing all the while my mystery has no solution?

Maybe…maybe once I get out of here I can just find a quiet place where nobody will bother me. I can salvage an old typewriter and work on my writing. Try to create something my barren womb couldn’t. Maybe that reporter in Diamond City might even publish some of my work in exchange for a few caps. Nate always liked my writing.

I miss Nate. I miss my mom. I miss my sisters. I miss my nephews.

I don’t know what I have to live for anymore.

But I still don’t want to die. Especially in this place.

Fallout Fridays – Sixty Feet Under