Written in 365 Parts: 53: Market Stall

Drick sat at a pop up food stall and poked at a bowl of noodles with a resin bi-pronged fork. Pop up was such a misguided term for this food stall as it had been here for at least sixty years. Boomer had dropped Drick off just outside the entrance to the market, in a side tunnel, and then had taken the security guard to a shared contact to have them shipped off world and eventually out of the system. Drick was true to their word, the guard had, reluctantly, given all the information that they knew and so the deal would be honoured.

Drick picked up a forkful of soft noodles and quizzically examined the meat residue that was clinging forlornly to the sides. It was supposed to be some form of chicken but Drick knew rodent when it was being slipped into a meal.

Drick shrugged and spooned the food into a hungry mouth and chewed thoroughly. White carbs and protein were required at this point and rodent or fowl it all ended up as a bunch of hydrocarbons called fats and acids. It was fuel, and oddly enough it was damned tasty. They always get you with the special sauce, didn’t matter what they poured it on, if the gravy was good the textured matter was mostly irrelevant. There was some vague attempt at fibre in the bottom of the bowl, tunnel grown fungus if Drick was to guess, but it was mostly irrelevant and so was spooned in and chewed without any real gusto. 

Drick chased every morsel from the bowl and even used a scrap of rice patty to sponge the final bits of sauce, no waste. The meal was just a couple of credits but it was rude to waste food, especially down here. The people who lived and worked the tunnels and under city were a mix of the hidden and the unseen. Food could be scarce, finances were often scarcer, so most of them were one meal short of bloody hungry. Wasting food was poor sense anywhere, down here it was close to being a crime.

Drick rinsed a mouth with the cold sweet tea they served. It was odd Drick thought, they had tasted some of the best beverages with and without alcs or stims in them, and yet the tea they served in the tunnel markets was the best drink available anywhere. It was also likely to be from plants force grown in a hydroponic section somewhere close, but it was a unique experience every time. 

Drick nodded at the young organic who was serving and held up the glass for a refill. Drick could have sat there for a lifetime eating random food and enjoying the subtle flavours of the tea. But one more glass would be enough before they had to go and face the piper.

Drick stared at the collection of stalls and tents and noticed that the scars from the firefight Drick had brought to this cavern, were still visible on the walls. It would have been a five minute job to throw a plasticrete patch on the damaged surface, however that would be a waste of resources. In the tunnels you didn’t patch for vanity you just repaired out of necessity. Everything had value here and sometimes the cost was in making sure your actions were always known. The impression Drick had caused would last a long time. That would incur a price and Drick would be best to settle the debt.

Drick scanned around a little more and then saw the organic they had to speak with. They were sitting at a beverage stall drinking what looked like a glass of clear spirit. Probably the local fungal spirit, it was readily available and in most of everything from bread to the special sauce that Drick had readily lapped out of the bowl a few moments before. Just like the tea every drink was a different experience and every brewer had their own special touches. 

If Drick recalled correctly the owner of that parfticular drinks stall was part of a group of maybe twenty or thirty locations on the planet. They might look like nothing but a street market trader but they had their talons into a lot of flesh both above and below. They were connected to the Engineer’s Union, but there again almost everyone was in some way.

The organic raised their glass and tipped it at Drick, that was the invite to join them. Drick was very aware of how important the rep from the Engineer’s Union was, and how many others would be watching with casual, or not so casual, interest. But Drick had played this game for a very long time. Drick raised their glass and tipped it in gentle salute and then continued to sip and finish the rest of the rice patty at the table. It took a few minutes to slowly chew the food, then Drick closed the bill and dropped a half credit tip in the glass on the counter and wandered across to the Rep.

The Engineer’s Union Rep was clearly presenting as a female and had enlarged the symbols on the skin tag to broadcast mode to make it obvious. They were dressed in the figure shrouding multi-piece utility uniform that was common amongst union operatives. 

The utility uniform was a level three environment suit with a multiple of pockets and hard points, it was close to military standard battle dress in all but name, it was certainly subject to the same number of conditions. It differed from combat utility clothing in several ways however, not least in the matter of the tiny fusion power cell fitted into the spine of the jacket that could power a multitude of devices. There were also more hardpoints woven into the suit internals for fitting tools, equipment, or attaching an operative to partial, or full, exoskeleton rigs. 

The suits were common to almost every world in the Terran habited parts of the galaxy, although most systems had their own variants. The suits were the same as the ones that left Terra with some of the earliest colonists. Designed and built to withstand, and be useful, in almost every circumstance. The construction and development of them must have cost a fair amount when they were first introduced centuries before. No one had bothered to change them much since. There were modifications and enhancements, but the basic suit was the same as the ones the early colonists died inside. Practical, versatile, but not exactly complementary to a figure. They gave everyone the same look. An organic in a utility suit.

Drick nodded at the waiting mechanoid, an old series bar droid, fixed in location with probably two dozen arms for serving a host of simultaneous orders. This one was in good repair, almost eight of its limbs were functioning. “Two of the same,” said Drick indicating the Rep’s glass.

The droid nodded and started to pour two new glasses of clear liquid, a quad shot of ice cold brain number. Drick picked up a glass and raised it to the Rep, “salute,” said Drick and downed the spirit trying a level best not to splutter, cough or vomit over the Rep who downed her drink in the same way.

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