Intercosmic - Chapter 14 - Inonolina, Pluto

I put my items in the trunk below my bunk, lock it and put the key around my neck. Hostels are a good place to stay if you’re down on your luck but they’re little more than a homeless shelter in most cases. I hear they’re a strictly human idea. I miss some items from my apartment but it isn’t like I saw them all that much. A personal shower would be nice, maybe cooking my own food. I didn’t realize how much I missed that until recently. Cooking whatever I want, however I want, I suppose that was one of the few aspects I had control over when I was home.

I still can’t get used to the freezing cold of Pluto. I’m not sure how the people who live here choose to do it. There’re six cities and a military base dotting the small planet, only one expands beyond eighty kilometers and they all function more like small towns. I didn’t plan to stay long, but Pluto only has off planet transport once a month that stops at each of the cities. I’ve got another two weeks before I can leave this place. I haven’t seen anyone from the base come to town yet, but unless it’s something important I doubt they would.

“Hey Efrem,” Beatrix the waitress with the pearlescent orange mohawk greets me.

“How’s it going Bea?”

“You know, the same. Just smoking a cigarette after the rush. Same thing I’ll do tomorrow.”

“Busy today?”

“Bout the same as always,” she takes another drag of the cigarette.

“See you in there.”

I didn’t know humans still smoked cigarettes until I met Beatrix. A few species got hooked but don’t experience the same health effects we do. I guess Beatrix doesn’t really care. From what I got she doesn’t care much about anything but current fashion trends. She’s been saving money to leave Pluto for the last six years from what she’s told me. I’m not exactly sure why she hasn’t just left yet. 

I key in my code for arrival and head over to the dishes. I slide a long glove over my prosthetic and tie string around the end so water doesn’t get in. This piece of crap is supposed to be waterproof, but I got a pretty big shock the first time I had to wash dishes for over an hour. I’m still surprised they wanted to send me back to active duty with something so, unreliable.

“Good to see you Efrem,” Johan pats me on the back.

“Good to see you to.”

“Not a lot of people float into town and actually work. Are you sure you want to leave? I could use more of you,” his words seem sincere as always.

“Sorry, staying too long in one place just isn’t me.”

“I understand. That’s how I came here in my younger years. I hope you don’t mind cleaning the grill before dinner.”

“Not at all, that’s why you pay me.”

“Thanks,” Johan heads back to the office. 

Johan was once a photographer for some local news outlet. They sent him around to take pictures of different events. Didn’t pay much, but he didn’t mind because the travel was paid for. The news outlet pivoted to holo-news and went under like a lot of others. They realized too late that people wanting their news in the form of holograms was just a niche market after the trend died down. Stuck on Pluto at the time, he worked hard, learned to cook and eventually started his own restaurant.

He’s a kind and caring man; he gave me a job without too many questions. The job isn’t glamourous but it gives me enough money to pay for my spot in the hostel and buy a ticket off the planet when the ship arrives. 

“Hey, you can’t just leave,” I hear Patrizo calling from the dining area.

I cut the sink off as the ruckus grows louder. I make my way past Johan who is slowly coming out of his office. Without the water running I can hear the struggle more clearly and my body just moves without thinking. Patrizo is struggling with thin man who seems to have catlike eyes. Probably a splicer, someone who has animal DNA spliced with their own. There’s a division of them in the military, but mostly just for special missions. Webbed fingers and toes for underwater missions, increased visual range for snipers, and so on. However, it’s becoming more popular with everyday people who just enjoy body modifications as well as those who think it’ll give them an edge in the world of crime. It quickly died out when people realized it wasn’t ideal.

I move to pull the two apart and the man with the cat eyes slashes at me. Instinctively I put my arm up to cover my face. I don’t feel any pain in the metal limb but the glove is ripped apart. Splicer for sure, he howls in pain having broken a few claws on his hand. I’m able to throw a punch and knock him down while Johan and Patrizo hold him. Beatrix moves to call for an arresting officer. 

His claws weren’t very strong, one of the many downsides of splicing. Military uses are much more limited than people think, tests are run, everyone doesn’t get cool chameleon color changing because they want it. These outside doctors don’t have the same tools, and the work can turn out bad in a number of ways. In the military it’s done through a regimen of injections tailored to that person over time. It modifies their actual DNA. Out here, they just cut and paste what they want. A more experienced doctor might replace bits of DNA, but it won’t be that person’s own so it’ll still be dangerous. People can die, might not get the mutation they expected or in the case of this guy, get one that isn’t as advertised. If that was Patrizo, he may have given him some gnarly flesh wounds, but not the kill he expected.

“Stop struggling or I’ll hit you again,” I threaten cat man.

“You saved my life,” Patrizo says once cat man has settled down.

“Yes, take the rest of the day off. Paid, we will survive,” Johan offers.

“No thanks, this is the most interesting place in town,” I head back to the kitchen. 

I’m not lying, there is nothing else in this town. I managed to snag a pair of headphones at a local shop. I can use those to kill time listening to the limited amount of music I had loaded to my wrist comp, but there isn’t much when you’ve got days of the same songs over and over. I’ve watched a few films, but most of my enjoyment comes from this place. Good people, strange customers and a lot of interesting stories. It’ll be a shame to leave it, but I can’t take this weather, or the boredom. I need to be in a city, a real city. Even if I’m just ignoring everything around me, I need the comfort of knowing the city is all around me.

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