Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Another day in the block: A First Law: Override short story - Part 1

Greetings friends,

So as you may have seen from my last First Law: Override post, I am at a temporary impasse. I know I am making things harder than I need to, and so I am helping my head get back on track.

To help facilitate that allow me to tell you a little story:


Tannus hated the Block, that much was true. He wasn't sure what it was, maybe the cramped conditions, perhaps it was the human stink that flowed over everything or the use of impure steel and concrete as building materials. Whatever the cause the fact still remained, Tannus hated the Block.

The Block was the nickname for a series of mega tower housing located on the Fringe World referenced by his people as NU:6297 or as the humans called it, Tanka V. It was a lifeless world with almost no resources worth mentioning, which was the exact reason why; despite the relative ease the world could be terra formed it was left untouched by the governing parties of the Outer Fringe. When the humans arrived in the Outer Fringe, it was because Tanka V was vacant that they picked it as their base of operations, including their appropriately named hub of industry; Capital City and the less reputable equivalent; Free Port.

It had only taken a matter of months following terraformation for the humans to start building their structures, or Tower Blocks; gigantic structures literally one fifty to two hundred stories high, and Tower Block VII had been the largest of them all. Each structure built from reinforced concrete and erected in some cases in the space of a week or two, the end result a horrifically grey tower of artificial human ingenuity covered in a sprawl of reinforcement struts and bars.

Once the blocks were all built they were abandoned by those who lived in the now glistening spires of Capital City and those who needed somewhere to live; as was the case with all humans as they were all refugees now, but could not afford to live in the nicer town and city regions of Tanka V were given access to these already dirty and tarnished buildings.

Within a matter of months the residents of the Tower Blocks had begun to add to their structures, connecting all manner of scaffoldings and walkways that connected each of the Tower Blocks together into one large Mega Block, all nestled around it's central heart of Tower Block VII. It was this collection of Tower Blocks with their unusually constructed walkways and canopies that gave the collection their new name; The Block.

Tannus was a Hydan and a respected member of the Wraiths, but despite all of this his duties had him hiding out in The Block waiting for any word he could gather of a Kratel smuggling ring going on. Official word from the Red Claw; the Kratel's ruling body in this region of the Outer Fringe, said that his intel was wrong, that there was no smuggling operation and that the Red Claw would not wish to damage it's continuing peace negotiations with the United Earth Force. Of course Tannus knew better than to believe anything a Red Claw rep said to him.

It had been a good few months since Tannus had acquired his temporary lodgings in The Block, the walls of his apartment appeared not to have been maintained even once since it's construction and the lack of maintenance had certainly shown. On all sides of his apartment he could hear the shouts and moans of his neighbours; humans all in unfortunate circumstances but unwilling to do what was needed to drag themselves out of the scum filled holes they now lived in.

Tannus hated his neighbours with increasing venom every day, and he knew that they harboured similar opinions towards them. Here he was; a Wraith operative, trying to make their lives all the better, and they threw juvenile insults like ET, Xeno and Bone Head in his way. On an almost daily basis Tannus thought about abandoning his post and returning back to The Nexus, the glorious crystalline citadel that his people called home free floating in the depths of space. He longed to taste the crystal fresh water that they purified on site and leave this dump of a world behind. How unfortunate he would think that he had not been born different, able and willing to abandon his post, his duties and his expectations.

Tannus reached for his refrigerator, a rusting construction that must have been as old as the building itself, and with a grimace on his face pulled out a can from it's chilled drinks holder. The can was luminous green and displayed in vivid red letters the brand name Second Best!! Tannus tutted slightly in disapproval as he remembered the add slogan:
Can't afford the rest? Try Second Best!!

Tannus cracked the seal and took a fast swig from the can. It tasted like pond water, but it was clean and that was more than he could say about the off colour repurposed fluid that flowed through the Block's taps. It was also fortified with enough nutrients that should someone need to, they could survive for twenty four hours on a single can alone. They wouldn't do well however, and after a week of living like that all manner of horrible sicknesses would settle in, but it was a cheap alternative which was why the cans were handed out at the local soup kitchen as a food substitute.

Placing the open can on his side board Tannus approached his apartment window and peaked outside through his drawn synthetic blinds. Looking out into the perpetual brown rain that poured down around the Block, Tannus was reminded of his business partner, a human by the name of Brooks. Tannus didn't have time for many humans, but Brooks was a fellow Wraith and had proven himself to Tannus on more than one occasion.

"Like a rusted neon jungle" thought Tannus, those were the words Brooks had used, a rusted neon jungle. Tannus wasn't sure if Brooks had meant the jungle or the neon was rusted and it puzzled him to no end thinking about how a neon colour could end up rusty, but he liked the phrase and it had stuck with him ever since.

Tannus was unsure how long he had been stood at the window, he had noticed a few human children paying on the support girders below, and either out of disgust or possible concern he had willed them to go away out of sight, that was when his door rang.

It was a high pitched and nauseating sound, like a drill scraping against bone but it did the job and Tannus paced extremely quickly to his door and placed his eye against the peephole. On the other side of the door stood a human, just under six foot tall, with a thin frame and face and dark messy unkempt hair that sprouted from his head in tufts but attempts had clearly been made to smooth down with a spit covered hand. The human wore a dark brown leather jacket, clearly synthetic, and a black T-Shirt worn and tattered around the neck with what appeared to be the pattern of a cybernetic kratel skull on the front. Tannus recognised the human as his partner Brooks and unbolted, unlocked and opened the door.

"Jesus man!" Laughed Brooks "Dude you look like shit!"

Tannus turned to his small rectangular mirror across the room of his apartment and took note of his appearance. His skin appeared his usual very pale white-green, his lips the usual darker green and his eyes his usual deep yellow. He continued to check his appearance, his head looking not dissimilar to a bald human's only with bone ridges covering the sides looked as they always did, and his topless chest revealing his dark green mottled spots appeared also just as they always did. Tannus turned back to Brooks with a confused look on his face.

"Nevermind man!" Continued Brooks who patted Tannus on his right shoulder before pushing past him into Tannus' kitchen, grabbing what was left of the can of Second Best!! and slumping on the apartment's only couch.

Brooks held up the can in front of him and rattled it in the air.
It's this shit that does it to you, ya know?" Continued Brooks "You Bone 'Eads arn't supposed to eat human food".

There was something about the way Brooks talked that always put Tannus on edge, in fact it was the same with any human. It wasn't the words used, or even the slurs in Brook's case, it was the language itself.

Like most on the Outer Fringe both Tannus and Brooks had translators installed behind their right ear. It was inserted into the dermis layer of skin and reacted to the vibrations from the ear canal to take the sounds heard, translate it to his native tongue and then via a series of nerve endings transmit the new words back. It performed the job, however it always caused new users to become disorientated and came with a medical warning against any movement at all for the first seventy two hours after installation. The worst part however was the translation delay, it was only a fraction of a second before the translation kicked in, but it meant that for that micro second you heard the speaker in all their crudeness. It wasn't xenophobia or anything similar, it was just a respect for art that Tannus had. All the hydan dialects were carefully orchestrated, like an operatic sheet of music to the extent in his native tongue the word for speech and song was the same word. All human languages however sounded like hydan children learning their first guttural demands. Tannus shook his head at his own trail of thought.

"At least..." Tannus thought to himself "at least it's better than that bottom feeding filth you hear from the Kratel".

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

No comments:

Post a Comment