CHAPTER TWO

part III

By the time they’d made their way through the densely winding alleyways of Aeris’ southeast quarter to Zaur’s warehouse, it was already mid-afternoon.

Zaur was frowning over a row of packed plastic crates, dictating orders to a couple of workers, as Roe approached. “What the hell am I supposed to do with this?” he barked, slicking his long salt-and-pepper hair back out of his eyes, “Where’d this--is this Bo’s haul from the ridge?” One of his burly workers said something, and Zaur snorted in annoyance before spotting Roe. W0RM shrunk on Roe’s shoulder, trying unsuccessfully to hide behind her neck.

“Ah, Zero!,” Zaur grinned, his yellow teeth shining through his graying stubble, “I got your message.” He shook his head and made a tutting noise at the sight of her black eye, “Goddamn animals, eh,” he said with disdain.

He was a large man with an even larger reputation, infamous for his erratic mood swings and selling everything legal and lesser-so to the city’s most wealthy and corrupt citizens. Be it machine parts, weapons, raw materials, art, food, flora, fauna, whatever. If it made him money and bolstered his name, Zaur would get it.

“Looks worse than it feels,” Roe said, brushing it off. “So, any...?” she started, trying not to seem too eager.

“--Gregor!” Zaur shouted at the top of his lungs. Roe and W0RM flinched, as his voice echoed off of the warehouse’s high ceiling. Roe stood there slightly stunned, as Zaur waited impatiently.

After a quick moment, a bald and chubby man jogged breathlessly out from behind one of the tall rows of stacked goods that filled the space behind Zaur. “Yeah, boss?” the man panted, wiping a bit of sweat from his brow.

“Anyone bring in a generator today?” Zaur questioned, his eyes narrowing, “A um...”

He looked to Roe who immediately replied, “A Reck C-355.”

“Uh...” Gregor thought through panting breaths before shaking his head, “No, I don’t think so.”

“Shit,” Roe muttered under her breath.

“Sorry kid,” Zaur lamented. ”They get anything else?”

Roe nodded then groaned, “My rifle. Been trying to track it since I got in town, but it’s all over the place. The tracker must’ve shorted out in the pool.”

“Pool?” Zaur asked, intrigued.

“It’s a long story,” she replied, flatly.

Zaur raised his hands, signifying he wouldn’t ask any further.

Roe let out a large sigh, “Well, thanks anyway. Just let me know. I just built--and kind of--successfully tested some new cloaking disruptors that’d be as good as yours if you run into it. Or any genny, at this point, really,” she grumbled and trailed off.

A smile stretched across Zaur’s stubbled face, and he smacked Gregor, who looked to have just caught his breath, on the arm. “Ha! You see this Gregor? This is why we do business with Zero Meridian. Always something I can sell.” As quickly as he had grinned, Zaur’s expression soured, twisting into an angry scowl, at the sight of the goods packed in the crates before him. “Not like this--this--trash!” His temper flared, and he started furiously digging through the crate and flinging its contents into the air and crashing onto the ground. “What am I supposed to do with this shit, Gregor? Huh?”

Gregor was wincing, shielding his shiny head from the rain of random objects, “I--I--don’t know, sir.”

Zaur stopped, holding up some sort of glimmering jade crystal, and looked to Roe. “Would you buy this?”

“I--”

But, before she could even answer, he was back to yelling at Gregor once more, “See! This is why we don’t raid the goddamn Rusties, Gregor. Nobody wants this alien shit anymore, Gregor, nobody! Tell Bo to get his ass back here now and get this garbage out of here!”

Roe took this as a good time to leave and started quietly backing up, “Okay, uh, I’m just gonna...” before turning and making for the exit.

“Oh, and Zero,” Zaur called out, as they walked away.

Roe stopped but didn’t turn around. An annoyed, knowing look came over her face.

“You know I have to ask...”

“He’s not for sale, Zaur,” Roe replied, exasperated, through gritted teeth.

W0RM fluttered his feathers and squawked angrily at the grinning Zaur, as they exited.

“One day, my metal friend,” he called out, cheerfully, “One day!”


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